We’re not that far into Lent and forget that sign of dust they brush on the center of your forehead.
I’m bowed over the sink after a teenage daughter’s slammed out the backdoor.
Slammed out of my ugly diatribe.
And I’m thinking I need something more direct, right there on the middle of brow.
The one the Farmer frowns deep at me and shakes his head that it isn’t true.
She says she didn’t. I say she did. I don’t know how it suddenly got so loud and we both lost.
I do know there are parenting days when the terms of endearment can get confusing and it all feels more like the terms of endurement.
Our arguing, it can go in circles. I don’t like it. What I like even less somedays is me.
It’s there in the center of the kitchen table, the wooden Lenten wreath — Christ encircling round everything on His way to Calvary.
Encircle our crazy circles, Lord?
Everything blurs and spills.
Whoever had the crazy idea that Lent was for the good who were forsaking some lush little luxury?
Lent’s for the messes, the mourners, the muddled — for the people right lost. Lent’s not about making anybody acceptable to a Savior — but about making everybody aware of why they need a Savior.
Wasn’t it Lewis who said that we are to be Little Christs?
If I’m following Him on His way to Golgatha, the place of the skull…. I finger the figurine of Christ carrying the cross.
Lent’s about little dyings.
How could so much of my flesh still be alive?
The girl whose side the sharp edge of my tongue pierced, she’s escaped to under the Manitoba Maple tree. She’s leaning up against the trunk’s mark — the scarring mark where a wind storm ripped off a limb last spring.
How could I have said those things and what part of this glorious child has my storm ripped off and how have words left marks?
In one wild moment, my disordered desires can betray how quickly I can lose my God-orientation. “Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” I’m this spring rain over sin and everything swims.
Encircle us, Christ, us in all our dizzying chaos.
When I feel like I’m drowning–
I’m at last ready to drown in the ocean of God’s unearned grace.
The sun sets.
She’s at the couch, cheek against the window, looking out. I sit softly beside her, say it softer…
“I’m sorry.” I reach out and her shoulder’s warm under my hand. This way of somehow holding her, healing her. I murmur it again and again, trying to find the way out, the way back, and repentance is always the first step. “I sinned and I’m so sorry; I’m so sorry.”
Hadn’t Mama always said that: “It’s not that you aren’t going to blow it. It’s what you do with it after.”
“I’m the one who did it wrong, Mama.” She turns from the window, turns to face me.
She hardly whispers it, but it reverberates loud in this canyon, “Sorry, Mama.” And everything fills and our eyes find each other, flow into each other, and I reach for her hand, squeeze her hand, and forgiveness is a river that sweeps everything away.
“You know what you are?” I smile into her eyes searching mine.
She shakes her head, eyes brimming.
That’s when I know she needs a sign of who she is, right there on her forehead. That’s when I know she needs to know who she is no matter what is said, what happens, what storm descends. Her and I both.
Her mother needs to make new signs to hang everywhere, to live under.
“You know that index and the thumb that makes the stiff “L” sign — the loser sign?” She half grins.
She knows what her Father thinks of me making that hand gesture and she says it slow, “Yeeees?”
“See how these fingers can angle — how they can bend in surrender to Him.
And if you lay the other index finger a cross, pick up your cross and follow Him– there it is —
there’s the sign to wear, the sign showing the way out of a mess: “A” —
She has to know this, that the word, “amaze,” it comes from the act of wandering in a maze.
The word amaze — comes from being bewildered, overwhelmed with wonder — amaze.
The losers, the ones lost in the labyrinth of life, lost wandering in the maze of life, are the ones made amazing — by the One who solves the mazes of life.
I touch her cheek, “In Him, you’re already amazing.”
She blushes and I laugh, nod my head yes, insisting to this daughter who has to know her Father’s heart for her now because of the Son.
In the flesh, you’re a mess.
In Christ, you amaze.
Get. That. In.
I sign the “A” over her and Christ with the scars, He marks her.
“And you are too, Mama.”
She laughs and when I give myself the L sign — she reaches over and turns it into an “A” and I brim.
And all the daughters, we could do that for each other, turn all the “L”s into “A”s and we could wear the sign of the Son and know. it. is. true.
You don’t need higher self-esteem. You need greater self-grace — that comes from the depths of His grace.
Amazing grace in your self-talk — makes everything amazing.
The wooden Lent wreath is there on the table. And it all comes round like a circle — His grace that you accept for yourself — is the same grace you then extend to others — which then graciously circles back to you.
And there too, the figurine of Christ, there on the circling wreath, there with the sign of sacrifice, showing how to move through Lent.
How to move in the right direction —
encircling the maze and the mess with this already amazing grace…
Related: 40 Day Lent/Easter wreath: our family’s best way to prepare for Easter