This past Wednesday evening members of our congregation worshiped together and were marked with ashes, a reminder that we are made of dust and that we return there. We also heard and saw the pouring out of sand. We symbolically poured ourselves out before our God and the sand became a symbol of cleansing, renewal and assurance as we offered ourselves to God for forgiveness.
For the past seven years as I’ve worked with youth, sand has not been a symbol of renewal or assurance. It has instead been the counterpart of oil, as we share the sand and the oil of our lives with each other. Where oil is the anointed and assured presence of God with us, sand is the barrenness and where we feel bereft. Sand represents the all-alone breadth of the wilderness.
This week my experience turned from the former to the latter. On Wednesday I ran my fingers through the sands of Ash Wednesday and on Friday I felt thrust into the dusty sand of the desert. I learned that, although my body had given no indication, had continued giving me all the right (although uncomfortable) signals, I am no longer pregnant. Probably for several weeks now. Probably even as I announced the news with joy.
I was shocked. I was upset. I lay on the ultrasound table alone and bereft and totally utterly thrust into the wilderness. And so Lent becomes something much different than I had ever anticipated. It was going to be a season of waiting and preparation and growth. It becomes a season of introspection and discernment and grief, learning to hope and wondering what is next.
When Jesus went into the wilderness, he was driven there. He was thrust by the Holy Spirit. That entry too was not gentle. Although not in the Luke version of the story that we read this morning, it is in the other Gospels that record this story that he was waited on by angels. Our psalm, Psalm 91speaks of the angels that 'will bear you up.' In that psalm it is to God that the Psalmist turns for refuge. This season of Lent I am looking to God’s providence and am grateful for the angels that have already offered comfort, understanding and presence. I pour myself out to my Creator like sand. I pray that I may find renewal.