An Ash Wednesday meditation
One of these things is not like the other, not like the other, not like the other. Is this familiar to you? I remember this little song from my childhood. It was on Sesame Street, I think. They would sing this little ditty and on the screen there would be a grouping of objects, maybe mittens, a hat, a scarf and a hammer, and young kids like me would shout out at the screen, “The hammer! The hammer! The hammer doesn’t belong!” And then, the nice voice would sing, “This one is not like the other, not like the other, not like the other” as the hammer was highlighted and then disappeared off the screen. And then another grouping would appear. It seems so simple now, but perhaps it wasn’t then.
Pretty simple, if the pictures are of animals and vehicles, clothing and tools, but not always so clear to us when we hold up our lives in the light of Jesus Christ and take a good hard look. That’s what we tell ourselves, anyway. We tell ourselves we don’t know what fits and what doesn’t. A glance at my calendar begs the question: What belongs, what fits, what doesn’t? If I profess that my priority is to be about God’s work in the world, the work of breach repairing and righteousness, then which one of these things is not like the other, not like the other? If I believe my calling is to be a parent and a pastor, what belongs? What doesn’t? Which one of these things in not like the other, not like the other, not like the other?
If I look at my bank statement line by line and I am honest about where I put my treasures – how much I give, how much I keep, how much I waste – what belongs? If I say I am called to be generous, what doesn’t fit? Match? Belong? Which one of these things is not like the other?
If I take a moment and let my mind freely wander, where does it go? What occupies my mental and spiritual space? Am I worried about the trivial? Am obsessed with myself? My desires? Wants? My image? If I know that Jesus says that the first will be last and the last will be first, why am I so concerned with being first, here and now? Why do I crave worldly recognition and admiration if I am called to be a servant? Why do I fear looking foolish or taking a risk for Christ’s sake? One of these things is not like the other, not like the other, not like the other.
If only the patterns weren’t so obvious, I could feign ignorance. But really, they aren’t any less obvious than that hammer. Most of the time I know that. I just no longer want to shout it out, because to shout it out would mean I’d have to get rid of it, and live differently, and I don’t want to live differently.
Lent is an important time in our spiritual journey when we are entreated to be reconciled to God and not take God’s grace in vain. We are to look honestly at ourselves and call out those things that don’t fit God’s pattern for our lives. We are to take the time to look at how we spend our time, our money and our energy and painstakingly begin to re-align all of those things with our true identity as children of God and disciples of Christ.
Lent is the time to seek God’s face and trust in the power of the One who took on sin who had no sin in order that we might become the righteousness of God, the repairers of breaches, the restorers of streets to live in, calling out boldly that which doesn’t belong in order to reveal the beautiful, ordered, freeing pattern that God intends for all of creation.