"You don't know me."
It's a phrase that I've often said in jest to my friends when they tell me I need to do something, or they think I wouldn't like a particular movie or book. Of course, they're generally correct about it. But it's also a phrase that I find myself muttering under my breath or saying in my head when someone judges me, however harshly or openly, for something I've said or done.
We all want to be known. It means that we have an authentic relationship with people. It means that people care about us enough to learn details about us, and to file away characteristics that we have into their memory.
If there is one thing I have learned over the course of my life, it's the importance of rest. Fortunately, I have learned more than one thing. But the point still remains: rest is an essential part of life. I particularly find a full day of rest to be vital to my emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical well-being. Of course, it's taken me a while to really see that. But now that I have, I guard my day off like the treasure that it is.
Today, as I write this, it is Saturday, the day I have chosen to designate as my day of rest. This doesn't necessarily mean I haven't done anything all day. This morning, after sleeping in until 9am, I got a haircut, fixed my car, ran an errand to the bank, and folded a load of laundry before noon. However, these are things that aren't of "work." It feels good to have my hair cut, I feel better about the state of our apartment now that the clothes are put away, and I love working on my car's engine (the unfortunate part is paying for the parts). Tonight, I get to watch my wife's winter guard perform their show, and I'm sure I'll get in some good reading before the day is over.
I tell you all of that to tell you this: without this day off, my next week would be awful. I would be cranky, stressed, and stretched thin. I know because it's happened before. But that's not what God intended for us.
Very few times in my life have I felt shame. Embarrassment? Absolutely: generally on a daily basis. But true shame? Not very often. But the season of Lent has a way of bringing it out in me. This season of the Church year tends to shine a light on even the deepest, darkest corners of my soul. Nothing can hide. And when I see what is hiding there, I am ashamed.
While Lent isn't the only time I feel this way, it certainly sets the tone for this type of self discovery. There are parts of me that I would rather stay hidden, but no matter how hard I try, they always come bubbling to the surface. Lust. Pride. Anger. These things are huge in my life. I struggle with them on a daily basis. On my worst days, I don't struggle with them at all, but simply allow myself to become consumed by them. Sometimes I wonder how it is that Jesus can stand to look at me, let alone love me. The beauty of God's love, however, is that it is beyond understanding.
I have a tendency to live in my head. Ask my wife. She'll be the first to tell you how frustrating it is to tell me something only to have me ask her questions about it five minutes later. I'm constantly thinking about something, and it seems impossible to turn it off. I'm also an introvert, which means that I gain my energy from being alone. Conversly, it takes a lot out of me to be in large groups of people constantly. People are exhausting. But regardless, even I crave community. I long to be around other people, and seek out deep relationships.
I recently posted about living in community, and how my mission trips to Nicaragua have opened my eyes to the importance of authentic community. But today, as I was reading in Hebrews 3, I found another reason community is so important.
Today marks the beginning of Lent. Generally, I try to give something up that has consumed my life, such as social media or television. It always helps me reset, and reorient myself toward God. I try to make space for His work in my life again. We are like computers in that way: after a while, we just need to reset and start fresh. The restart of Ash Wednesday has always been something I cherish. But this year, I'm going to do something I haven't done before. I'm going to study the Book of Hebrews repeatedly over these next forty days, and as I do I am going to write about my experience.
"Why Hebrews?" you might ask. I have always loved the Book of Hebrews because of it's depth. If I had to describe Hebrews in one word, I would call it "thick." That's the only word that comes to mind. It is thick with the historical inbreaking of God in this broken world. It is thick with tradition. It is thick with life. And it is thick with God's grace. So I have chosen to spend my Lenten focus on this one, albeit "thick," book of the Bible. My hope is that God uses this time of focus to work on me, and in writing about it I hope to pass on whatever I might glean to you, dear reader. So without any further ado, let's talk about Ash Wednesday.