March 11: From Ashes to Radiance
and delivered me from all my fears.
Look to God, and be radiant;
so your faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor soul cried, and was heard by God,
and was saved from every trouble. Psalm 34:4-6
Ash Wednesday felt just right. Sackcloth and confession, ritual ashes on our faces. Yes! How long I’ve wanted to do that, to finally outwardly image the grief I feel inside for our nation and our world! How have we been going about our business everyday as if the sky weren’t falling in on us? I’m in the mood for prophecies of the eschaton and hymns of lamentation. Songs of praise like Psalm 34? Not so much.
It’s difficult to hear and trust words of hope when the world seems, well, hopeless. Don’t we sing praises after God has fixed everything? For me, the challenge of being a Christian today is being honest about what is…honest about my anger and frustration and grief and fear…but still having hope. How do we proclaim the truth of the Good News amidst all the claims about fake news? How do we embody the grace of God in an unforgiving and unforgivably violent world?
The psalmists knew about this painful world just as well as we do, if not better. They dance between lamentation and praise, grief and joy, holding together these paradoxical realities of life. The author of Psalm 34 had clearly been through great suffering, but God didn’t abandon the psalmist in the midst of that suffering. God was faithful then, and God promises to be faithful now.
This Lent, my spiritual practice is to try to live with hope. I’m trying to not let myself be swept into my own current of despair, but to seek deliverance from the fears that keep me up at night. I’m trying to dust the ashes off my face and look to God, because I believe that God’s radiance can change more lives than my own. I’m trying to trust that God will save us from every trouble, no matter how impossible that seems.
SFTS M.Div. 2006