Ash Wednesday

It’s a rainy, wet day here in Plymouth—gray and fitting. I have a little bit of a headache. One of those irritating ones I used to get in school after reading too much, where whatever I would try to focus on would turn into a ball of glowing white static. Good times.

Which doesn’t have anything to do with Ash Wednesday.

But speaking of the weather and speaking of the date and speaking of reading too much for school, I was ruminating on one of T. S. Eliot’s long poems this morning, aptly titled Ash Wednesday, and although it’s way too long to post and I debated anyway whether or not it was worth risking the whole “blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden” thing (which tends to throw some folks off), I did want to just share my absolute favorite part.

Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will

I love that.

I love the simplicity and the acceptance.

It's hard to feel accepting right now, to be honest. I feel at peace with God, but I am continually appalled by people who claim to speak for God but only succeed in wounding those in their care. Gandhi's famous complaint makes a lot of sense to me these days. I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.

I don't say that because I think it's the best way to be or the only way to be or anything like that. I say it because that's where I happen to be. I think the hardest thing in my spiritual life has always been to disentangle the real Christ from all the Christians who have abused and manipulated others in his name. The dark underbelly of faith is what I see when I look at the Church these days, though I know in my head there must be many, many Christians who oppose that. And I find them now and then in books and coffee friendships, random emails and phone calls. That is the most genuine community of faith I have ever found.

Mostly, I love occasions that allow for doubt and the acknowledgment of pain.

They feel the most truthful to me these days.

4 thoughts on “Ash Wednesday

  1. Loved your quote. In my experience, there are a few great, faithful, Christlike people, but most of us are pretty good most of the time but pretty miserable friends at other times. I think that goes with the territory of intimacy. A casual friend can be a great friend, but those you live with day in and day out all the time will sooner or later disappoint once in a while, I think.

  2. While I think you’re right that even friends occasionally disappointed one another, I’m actually mulling over a much larger scale of awfulness at work here.

  3. That was a great little quote. I’m really interested because I saw a documentary on the Hutterites a few years back, called, “To Care and Not to Care.” It undoubtedly got its title from that poem. The Hutterites are really big on not caring about what happens to them. In fact, in interview after interview they’d be asked what they preferred or wanted to have happen in this or that situation, and they would say, “I don’t care.” Funny how such different people can arrive at the same thought from totally different directions.

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