The ashen woman with a soot-ash cross smudged large on her forehead, her face contorted in horror, holding another howling woman.
It’s the woman wearing a cross on her forehead, trying to stay standing outside the school where they carried out 17 body bags on Ash Wednesday.
I keep returning to that one photograph of her. I keep wanting to reach for her hand, keep thinking:
We are but dust and this is a dust eating world but we are stardust and we blaze the courage of stars and we will go on without end.
How can this woman, wearing her ashen cross there on her forehead, weeping in the middle of sickening, mass horror, be anything but a defiant, undeniable sign to us staggering through wreckage:
There is a cross that’s a bridge across to dreams — and no crosscurrent of evil can undercut it, and no crosswinds of despair can overtake it, and no crossfires of any suffering hell can burn it down.
My shattered heart fuses with hers. Where two or more are gathered in grief, never doubt that God was there first and He will be there long after the last have left.
Lent isn’t only a season of subtraction; Lent too is a season of multiplication: more love, more grace, more kindness, more courage, more Christ.
Lent is this living more of the beatitudes — to bless more of this broken world with the indestructible, upside down beauty that’s formed like the heart of Christ.
Four days before Lent, I hold a tried and true friend’s hand and she takes off her wig and looks me straight in the eye when she tells me that this new tumor’s inoperable and this will be her Cancer 2.0. I blink hard. Her entire countenance insists:
Losing dreams don’t mean losing your hope.
Suffering doesn’t mean your kindness suffers.
And a change of plans doesn’t mean your God changes.
In the midst of crisis, there can be an abundance of more Christ.
On the third day of Lent, early this morning, a friend texts me that her baby died in the night, and my heart writhes with disdain of death and there’s a searing sadness that can make you feel physically sick. Death vows to terrify us all.
I get to the bathroom.
Body bags in school yards and Cancer 2.0 and dead babies laugh evil in the face of all that seems right and fair.
But Lent begs:
Was Calvary fair? Was the Cross fair? Was the Crucifixion fair?
God endured the greatest injustice in history — to justify unmerited grace for you for forever.
Grace, mercy, love, forgiveness, by their very nature— aren’t fair — but they are the fully abundant life.
The unfairness of God — is the graciousness and forgiveness of God that actually saves us, that gives us abundant life. God being unfair — is what has actually given us life.
Can we accept what seems very unfair in life — because we have accepted the unfairness of God that has saved our very lives? Because we accept what is His goodness — can we accept what feels like His unfairness?
I wash my face from a morning of grief stains. But my heart won’t stop leaking. Breathe.
God isn’t obsessed with creating fairness now — God is obsessed with creating closeness now — and fairness for all eternity. Seek His closeness now — trust His fairness for all eternity.
This is the force of all our reality right now:Lent lends Light to all the dark.
And this is the cruciform force of the cosmos that will make all things fair and right and I squeeze my friend’s hand for all I am worth. We will do this:
When I stand in the kitchen, stacking dishes on the third day of Lent, our littlest girl flies by me on her wooden push bike, “Looooveeeee you.”
And a heart hurting for a hurting world, I mutter it more to her than to me, “What in this world does love even mean?”
And our little girl comes to a full stop. Slides off her little Red Rider. And comes back to me.
“You wanna know what Love means?” She cocks her head, parrots back my words in her high-pitched 3-year-old lisp.
And I look over to her standing there in her mismatched socks and a lopsided ponytail.
“I know what love means, Mama!” She gently laughs like a laying on of hands that heals the rawest wounds.
And she flings her arms open as wide as they can reach. That wisp of a 3 year old girl, she’s standing there with her arms stretched wide open — cruciform. Not wearing a cross on her forehead — yet making all of her — ams, hands, body — into a cross.
And behind her, high up in the gable, on the dining room wall, is a canvas depicting the crucifixion, Jesus with His arms stretched a universe wide, not one of us beyond His rescuing.
And I kneel down.
Kneel in front of our little girl with her arms stretched out in the meaning of love — kneel at the foot of the cross hanging behind her with Jesus stretched out in outreach that reaches even the brokenhearted.
And how can you not feel it?
Lent lends Light to all the dark.
I touch my baby’s girls reaching arms and her glinting, smiling eyes find mine, hold mine, and I whisper:
“Yeah, you’re right baby girl — Love means exactly this.”In a world of outrageous pain — we love with outrageous outreach.
In a world of grief beyond magnitude, what will change us and the world, is the attitude of Beatitudes. Blessed are those mourn, for they will be comforted.
In a world that doesn’t feel fair — His cruciform love and outstretched arms embrace us —- so what we feel is Him.
No one knows more than Jesus that this world isn’t fair — and no one loves us to death like Jesus, until everything is fair for forever.
In a world of loss — Lent can lead us back to healing, cruciform love. The deeply suffering are deeply touched by the suffering of Christ. We do not weep alone — and Christ will not rise alone.
Then the little girl wraps around her arms tight around my neck and my heart feels it:
How she’s lent me an abundance of His healing light.
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