You are my death, my love, and dying you I live in deep calm waves of bliss That wash me past all worlds To break in Origin.
Jalal-ud-Din Rumi (Translated by Andrew Harvey from A Year of Rumi)
Today is Ash Wednesday. Silence of snow covers the ground outside my window. My heart beats a steady rhythm in dawn's coming light. The shadow of a heavily laden bough dances on the wall outside my window.
The world awakens slowly in its white blanket. My senses awaken slowly to the day.
When I was a child I loved my mother like no other. She was beautiful. Lyrical. A mystery to me. Her voice was sweet and gentle. "If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all," she would tell me. "Do not say in a shout what you can say in a whisper."
I remember watching my mother. The way her hands floated in the air around her when she talked. The way her body bent up and down when she lifted laundry from the basket, silently smoothing out tousled sheets and towels, folding over once, twice, three times four.
My mother loved me, she told me. But I was never sure. I was her doubting Thomas. Her trials and tribulations, she called me. The Brat, the moniker of my youth.
There were so many distractions in her life. Four young children. A husband who was away more than he was home. A language she could not quite command. A month longer than she could stretch the money in her purse. A sadness, a homesickness that no one else could lift. A yearning for family far away. In India and IndoChine and France and Africa. A tight knit family cast around the globe like rune stones cast upon the sands, searching for a time when all would be rejoined, when family would come together. But not even the stones could show her the way to knit herself back into the tapestry of her life. The warp and weave that was torn apart when she left behind her mother and father and brothers and sisters and the land of India she called her home so long ago. She could not find her way back home and so she cried.
I remember the days leading into Easter time with my mother. Lent. You must repent. You must let go, give up something like Our Father gave up His only Son.
I was only a child. What could I give up to match God's sacrifice? Show God you love him above all others. Tell Him you care.
Doesn't he know? I'd ask.
Do not be difficult, my mother would reply. Try harder.
And so I'd try. To love God above all others, but it didn't seem possible. He was somewhere, out there, in a place I couldn't see. My mother was right here. I needed my mother above all else. To survive. To live. To thrive. Her hand was the one I felt upon my head. Her fingers pinching my ear, telling me to behave. To listen up. To quit being so noisy. So fussy. So childish. "Grow up."
And I'd try. To grow up. But I would fall.
"Stop that. God doesn't love bad girls," my mother would tell me. "God sees all. He knows your sins."
So, if he knows my sins, why do I have to tell them to Him? Couldn't I just take my penance without citing the litany of my transgressions?
And she would cry in despair for this girl child who was so unruly. So disobedient. So difficult. She was not a child of God. Perhaps she was the devil's?
I wanted my mother to love me. I wanted her to know I loved her. I wanted to lift the veil of sadness that surrounded her. And so, I worked hard to love God above all. I wanted to be God's little girl. His perfect blessing.
But I could never measure up. God was too on high for my tiny legs to reach.
I took my eyes off God and looked at my mother. I needed to love my mother. More than God. More than anyone else. How could I love God and my mother too? My sisters? My father? My brother? There never seemed to be enough love for everyone.
And all the love in the world never seemed to lift my mother's sadness. Never seemed to break through her despair.
What good is love I wondered? What good is God?
Today is Ash Wednesday. I have travelled far from that little girl who struggled so hard to make sense of a crazy world. And still, I struggle with my journey into God. Still I struggle to profess my faith.
I believe in a Divinity, an energy greater than me, a collective consciousness deeper than all my thinking will ever comprehend.
I believe in God. A God. Of purity and truth. Salvation and redemption.
And still I struggle. I can post a Rumi poem, but to post a quote from the Bible seems to foreign to me. So difficult.
I am attached. To my fears of God. My fears of being 'just like my mother'.
My mother loved God above all others.
And the little girl within cries out for Love above all else.
Today is Ash Wednesday. A day to step into the desert of my faith, laden with nothing but an ashen cross upon my brow. A time to acknowledge sorrow and grief. To enter into grieving. Lament.
Christine Valters Paintner of Abbey of the Arts invites us into, "remembering that we will die, we are called to remember God who is the source of our life."
I remember I will die. I live for today.
I know I live. I live for Love. In the name of Love. Loving what is within me. All of me.
I know God lives within me. Within my heart. Within the hearth of my heart where I come home to rest in Love.
In my living from this place called Love, I am. Love. Sorrow. Joy. Pain. Fear. Jubilation. Celebration and so much more.
In my living joyously in the light of this moment. This moment right now when snow covers the ground and light cracks open the day, I am. Love is. God.
Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart. Joel 2:12-13
How beautiful this day to return home to where I belong. To enter into the desert of my heart. To release the sorrows, the grief unnamed, the despair unacknowledged.
How beautiful this day to enter with my whole heart into the rapture of this moment reflecting on God's beauty shimmering all around me.
How beautiful this day to enter with my whole heart into Love.