Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ash Wednesday - Humility and Trust

The Journey of Lent is a Wilderness journey. In the wilderness, survival resources must be carefully rationed. One of the rituals observed in Lent is fasting, a discipline intended to simulate the scarcity of the wilderness.  Some people fast from meat, or soda, or TV. The long- practiced spiritual discipline of fasting is designed to empty one’s self, to reduce one's neediness, in order for the Spirit to keep and fill you. The symbolism of fasting is that doing without your most basic needs, food and water, is an act of trust and submission. We submit our most basic needs in trust that God will provide, much like the ancient Israelites trusted God in the wilderness to provide the manna needed to sustain life.

From a psychological standpoint, submission in trust is called humility. Psychologically, humility is to let go the idea that you are in ultimate control of what you think you need for comfort and happiness, be it material or intangible. We like to think we control our circumstances as well as our attitudes and perspectives, but very often we are not. And very often, the attitude we choose is not an attitude that reflects the benevolent love of God…either toward others or toward our self.  In theological language we call humility or self emptying kenosis. Fasting is a symbol of kenosis or self emptying, which is essentially the willingness to reduce your neediness – physiological and psychological – to humble yourself in a gesture of trust and prayer before God. It is no mistake that the root of humility is humus – dirt, soil (ashes) – the same root as human. It is in the Wilderness of humility that we accept our humanness – our inability to count on anything but God to provide everything we need.

“But know this,” says YHWH: “Return to me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Tear open your heart not your clothes!” Return to YHWH your God, who is gracious and deeply loving as a mother, quick to forgive, abundantly tender-hearted – and relents from inflicting disaster." Joel 2:12.

“And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8

Peace be with you on the Lenten journey ~ Peggy

Artwork from


  1. Thank you for your lovely thoughts. Reading this, I was struck with how Lent is an annual reflection on impermanence, presence, and the ongoing connection temporal life and eternal life share.

    The ceremony that initiates Lent is closely tied with separation, loss, and submission through impermanence. The ashes that are used to mark the participants came from a past celebration, one that marked an "earthly" and "kingly" procession into a sacred site (Jerusalem). That procession led to devastating humiliation, surrender, and loss in the physical history of Jesus, teacher from Nazareth.

    As ashes mark our bodies, we are reminded that we are dust, and unto dust we shall return. What more humbling reminder can we wear that life includes death? We start the season wearing ash that is infertile, dry, and without life. They mark the memory of the original Passover--- marking houses that saved the Hebrews, and the new passover where we who follow humbly through death and Resurrection will be marked for Union with the Eternal Christ.

    The Hebrews walked into the wilderness with little more than the assurance that they had been spared one horror to encounter the dearth of the desert. Forty years later, they were a nation, founded on a spiritual covenant. Because of the transcendent relationship we share in the presence of Christ, Lent simply reminds ourselves of the temporary nature of the fast; the suspense, and the impermanence of this journey compared to the Eternal course of Being. Very little is asked of us, except that we be mindful of our opportunity to spend this life as an expression of ALL lives that were and will be exalted through relationship with God.

  2. Thank you so much for your wonderful comments DMarie! We remember that we are One in eternal loving relationship which, while it pours itself out through/for the temporal world, is never compromised, but continues to draw us into itself and, again, pour itself out, in the eternal life and death/ebb and flow/tzim tzum of reality.