Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

I’m diving into Lent with resurrection in my bones. Physically, spiritually... so very grateful.

A friend asked me on Sunday to help her with a project.  I wouldn't have immediately thought of myself, though I’m more than honored that she asked me and I’m glad to do it. I asked her why on earth she thought of me. Her first two answers made sense: she knows me and trusts me, and it would be good to get me seen around the diocese. Then she said, “You seem like you could do just about anything.”

I’m getting a lot of that. And I’m getting a lot of it at the cathedral. It’s almost like rock-star treatment; both gratifying and a little unnerving. People see a power in me that I’m just not used to. And I’m doing things here, that I’ve never done.

I know where the power, and the perception, come from. Part of it is the intersection of me with this community, at this point in our lives. People are ripe to take part in the outreach I’m doing. And I’m so ready to do it, and to stretch these leadership skills.

The source is as deep as my being. I’m a cancer survivor. The experience of diagnosis, surgery, chemotherapy—terror, hope, physical and emotional exhaustion, illness and recovery—is still so very fresh. I know about death and rebirth. Resurrection is the filter through which everything flows through me.

These people did not know me before I was diagnosed. Only one of them—the friend who asked me to help her—knew me throughout my chemotherapy year. We were in a colleague group together. She saw me every week, when I was doing well to get out of bed. She knew how much I loved the work I was doing, how deeply it formed me, and how I struggled to have the physical energy to do it.

Everyone else met me at the end of summer, when I missed street ministry like oxygen and was strong enough to start coming up here. (I live 45 minutes away.) They see me now, when I'm alive and awake and my body is well. They don’t know where I came from.

But I do. And I know the gifts that cancer gave me. I remember the fearfulness I lived in, before fear for my life kicked that cage to the curb. I was so unsure of myself, so tentative about everything. So caught up in unhealed wounds; so unbelieving. Then I was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. I had to be strong. I had to feel real fear, and walk through it. I had to ally my whole self with my body. I had to trust in my community’s prayers, and in God from the very beginning. I chose to go where cancer took me; to let the crucible forge me into what I have become. But I knew all along that I had no real choice.  I had to be open to it.  Giving in to the panic would have killed me.  To walk through the experience with my eyes open, feeling the fear and the hope and the love and letting them transform me, was to choose life.

Living through all of that, and emerging whole and healthy, gives me a sense that I can only articulate as, "I am alive now."

It’s not urgency. It is incarnate possibility.

My wings are still wet. But they are no longer broken. In this season, I’m going to stretch them as far as I can. And learn to believe in the power God has given me, in this life that is mine.

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