Ash Wednesday

It’s 10:22pm on Ash Wednesday, and Lent hasn’t got off to a flying start. Shrove Tuesday was a black day indeed. Jen was very distressed—the cause is immaterial—and instead of giving the sympathy and support she might expect, I opened the cranky valve and vented, loudly and at length.

One nurses a grievance so that it can grow big and strong, and one day strike out on its own in the wide world. On that day one experiences a momentary surge of delight; the righteous release of pent-up bile in a welter of abandonment. Then the sanity comes flooding back in. Does this sound familiar?

How many of our sinful actions are like this? In how many, before the rush of blood has even subsided from the cheeks, has remorse set in? There’s something about the way we are made that predisposes us to such moments; moments that reveal the cracks in the foundations of our being; moments that reveal the truth of the millennial teachings of self-discipline and self-control; of the matrix of tradition and custom that teaches us how to live in the terrible fiery flux that is our life in this world.

So I came to Ash Wednesday dispirited and un-cooperative, ready to forgo any promise of restraint and self-denial because of the the prior failure of restraint and self-denial. How curious. I continue to live by my own lights, by my own strength, my own judgements, my own convictions, my own deep wells of anger and righteousness. I will not, will not, will not, surrender control of events to God. I will not, will not, will not, put my trust in Him. And so I came sulking from the ashes of Tuesday to the Wednesday I did not want.

I have a glass of wine beside me as I write. My usual fast from alcohol will not be this year, said my inner toddler. I’m OK with that, for I have something else in mind. It is this: to post something on this blog on every day of Lent. Greg J. said to me once that writing was, for him, a crucifixion. I did not let myself savour that tidbit, thinking it did not apply to me. Sometimes, it is true, the words come easily enough; but not under the lowering cloud of expectation. Reliability, repeatability, dependability, responsibility—these are the nails from which this soul, arrested in its development, turns and twists and pleads and shouts to avoid.

So let us see. It is 11:19pm. Today will be a tick. There are forty days, excluding Sundays, which are always feasts, of Lent. Help me, my Lord.

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