There will be no imposition of ashes for me this year. No reading of ancient liturgies in sacred spaces.
There will be the dropping of eye drops into my reddened, itchy eyes. There will be the reading of the label of my newly purchased bottle of Mucinex Cold and Sinus. I may even make the sign of the cross on my head with Vicks Vapor rub as I go through my nightly routine of anointing various parts of my body with its balm as I do a holy unction of sorts, praying for healing from this horrible cold.
I do not need reminding this year that I am mortal. That I have limits. That my body will one day fade away. The beauty of a nasty cold is that it makes all those points crystal clear.
You are not God the thousands of virus cells shout at me. To prove this point loud and clear I will stop you from partaking of your normal routine. I will strip you of your voice, your energy, your drive. I will lay you flat for days at a time and remind you that your body is not eternal. It will betray you. It will fail you. One day is will stop its functions altogether and begin its decay to dust.
A nasty cold at anytime is a wake up call of sorts, but this week’s experience has held another layer. My beloved mother had knee surgery on Monday. A surgery that had been planned for months. In preparation I had cleared
my calendar entirely for the week and planned to be at her side. I was going to be the good daughter. The one who cares for my mom in her time of need. The hero. Maybe even the savior?
But alas these plans were laid to waste. “You really shouldn’t be around your mother while you are so contagious” friends told me. “Give it another day before seeing her, her immune system is busy enough,” my doctor’s office advised. I restlessly texted and called to check on Mom’s progress throughout the week. “She’s great!” they told me. “We’re doing just fine” I was reassured. But no matter the amount of reassurance I still found myself frustrated and angry.
Why the angst? Mom was clearly okay. Eventually I had to face up to the ugly fact that I was the one who was not okay. Because I was the one who needed to be the hero. It was I who couldn’t trust God and others to care for my mom instead of my high and mighty self.
I rub the balm on my forehead and remember that I am frail and small. I am not the hero of this Lenten story. I am not the Savior.
I am the one who is in need of being saved. From myself. My brokenness. My ego. My frailty.
Not that frailty is sin. No frailty is our gift.
For it is only in our frailty that we can allow ourselves to let go of all that we try to hold on our human shoulders and allow ourselves to be held.
Our frailty is what whispers to us that one day our body will become so broken that is will crumble apart. And in our crumbling we will be freed to be taken up by the arms that once held us on earth, taken now upward into a heavenly embrace.
This frailty is not a curse, it is a joy. I do not want to live forever. I do not want to be the hero. I want to rest in the arms of the one who saves me as much as I can in this broken body on earth. And I give thanks I will return to dust so that I may perfectly rest in the arms of my Savior forever.