Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ash Wednesday

Lent is a time when we often focus on changing something in our lives. I encourage you all to take on a Lenton discipline (see below), such as taking on something that is live-giving or giving up something that is life-taking. But just for a moment, here on Ash Wednesday, let us just be as we are—human beings, both blessed and cursed, healthy and broken, strong and weak, faithful and sinful.

“Don’t Change”

I was a neurotic for years. I was anxious and depressed and selfish.

Everyone kept telling me to change.

I resented them, but I also agreed with them. I knew they were right. I wanted to change; I felt like God wanted me to change, but I simply couldn’t. No matter how hard I tried, (and I tried over and over again), nothing worked.

What hurt even more was that my closest friend also kept insisting that I change. She would tell me stories of how her brother had changed and suggested I should do the same. She even cut self- help “tips” out of magazines for me.

I tried and failed. I gave up. I tried again. I felt powerless and trapped.

Then, one day, just as my friend was about to give me some advice, I saw her stop in mid- thought. Her mouth hung open and her lungs were filled with air, eager to tell me what to do to make my life better. Instead of speaking though, she just exhaled.

Then she said, “You know what, don’t worry about it. You’re wonderful! Don’t change. I love you just the way you are.”

Those words were magic to my ears. Don’t worry. Don’t change. Don’t worry. Don’t change. I love you just the way you are.

I looked at her.

I exhaled.

I relaxed.

And that’s when it happened. I changed!

It took years to get to that pivotal moment in my life. First, I had to accept myself for who I was. First, I had to remember that God loved me no matter what. And then, I needed someone to remind me—that love is free whether we change or not. That’s when change actually became possible for me.

Written for Ash Wednesday (based on an anonymous poem titled, “Don’t Change”)

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