I walked home from Ash Wednesday service tonight in a gentle, soft snow. It belied the many ways my life has felt battered by the not-so-gentle over the past several weeks.

I went to a service at a church I’ve never been to, one just two blocks from my home, and I almost didn’t go. I wasn’t so sure I needed to and I was tired. And no one would know me if I went or miss me if I didn’t.

But sometime maybe that’s what we need.

The moment I stepped through the door I started to cry. Through the incense and the processions and the prayers and the bells and the readings I cried. My body knew something I didn’t yet, and it knew I needed that space to…grieve? to hurt? to be confused?

Maybe just to cry.

And I received the cross of ashes on my forehead – that sign of all the deaths we bear and carry with us.

And I stayed and I ate the bread and drank the wine – bread and wine that are signs of a living body that transcends death.

I can’t understand that, but I know I needed it.

Lent is a season of hope.

Lent doesn’t simply tell us that human life is full of evil and death and failure and betrayal and messing up and hurting each other.

Lent recognizing the broken things, the things that make us heartsick and heartbroken, and then goes on to tell us there is also healing and life and goodness and giving and love.

They aren’t often easy to get to and we get hurt and hurt each other along the way. Elbows and knees and words and struggles are sharp and awkward and we don’t always know what to do with them.

But this Lent, I think I need to leave space for crying and hoping. In all their messiness together. I’m not sure there’s any real substance to hope without some crying, too.

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