Saturday after Ash Wednesday


aith — with a capital F — was always a challenging concept for my long-agnostic mind. I understood it as a blind trust in a wise, bearded fellow in the sky, the puppeteer of all things. I interpreted faith as requiring a belief that God has a blueprint for each of our lives and we must trot merrily along the dotted line, bearing the bad as though it were good, smiling beatifically as we watched loved ones die, children suffer, and friends languish. Acceptance of the bad seemed like it required a sort of gloss over the top of it. A bandage, not a balm.

In meditation and yoga — which I, as a younger woman, viewed as an answer or antidote to monotheistic religion — I was attracted to the concepts of centeredness and flow. I can now see that the ideas of “faith” and “centeredness/flow” are close kin. In fact, a key element of faith seems to be acceptance of the pain, a willingness to move with it, to let it flow through the spirit. This means that I must feel it. Live it. Breathe it. Inhale it…and then exhale it. The Holy Spirit is in both the inhalation and the exhalation.

Taken on its face, a sabbath can seem sort of like a lazy day. (PJs and Netflix, right?) I see now that observing the sabbath is an act of focus and intention. Rest can be more than laziness; rest can be a practice, a choice to resist our human urges to judge and condemn, forcing God’s kaleidoscopic creation into a black-and-white mimeograph of what we think is right. Those urges are natural and are products of fear, but an antidote to fear is peace.

Peace be with us all.

artwork for Ash Wednesday and days following