(Un)Expected

I’m one week into this Lenten Lament, and so far it looks nothing like what I expected.

I thought I didn’t have any expectations for this season, but apparently I fooled myself. The substance of my Instagram posts hasn’t changed, I’ve not had some grand life revelation, I haven’t even cried once in the last week. And let me tell you, since about the third month of grad school, going a week without shedding a tear is noteworthy.

The voices keep swirling in the back of my head: What if nothing happens? You can’t force emotional states… The fear and the shame around the possibility of stepping wrongly into this time of intentional grieving are nearly tangible on my skin.

One week into this Lenten Lament, and so far it looks nothing like what I expected.

Early last Wednesday morning I was kneeling at an altar, waiting to receive the ashes on my forehead marking my mortality. Fresh in my mind were the memories of the night before, opening up to my rector and telling her my intentions regarding shaving my head later that evening. Head bowed, I felt the weight of my body resting on my knees in the way only a posture of kneeling creates. As I heard Mother Sara finish imposing ashes on the person beside me, I looked up, expecting to see on her face the weight I was feeling in my knees.

She was smiling. I could barely contain my surprise at such an unexpected look. Grinning, her eyes seemed to offer a blessing of my efforts. Support and care were radiant on her face, while thoroughly in the midst of reminding me that dust I am and to dust I will return.

I still don’t know what this time holds for me. It feels risky and foolish to attempt to lament at all, much less in such a public way, but the memory of Mother Sara’s smile continues to return to me. Just like the rest of this week, it was not what I expected, and yet it felt right. Somehow, as I keep sitting in this space of unknowing, the whispers of grace still echo.