I have been reading Madeleine L'Engle's Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art. Perhaps you remember her book for young adults, A Wrinkle in Time. My 5th grade teacher read this to the class. Then I read it myself, along with the sequels, A Wind in the Door and A Swiftly Tilting Planet. In Walking on Water, L'Engle writes about being a Christian artist. I was reading this before bed last night, and in the middle of the night, I was awakened. I'm going to tell you what I was told.
We have all been sold a bill of goods. How long in human history this has been going on, I do not know. Since the Fall in the Garden, I imagine. Since the angel pointed to the door and told Adam and Eve to never come back.
We are told that we are the sum total of all the things that have happened to us, the good and the bad. Especially the bad. These trials have made us who we are today, "they" tell us. Our hardships have made us stronger. We have learned from our mistakes. Indeed, we have learned. But we've learned the wrong things.
When I was twelve years old and on the verge of womanhood, I was strong, fearless, and filled with faith. I was destined to set the world on fire. I was innocent and full of Wisdom. Then one summer day, the spiritual attacks began. I can't bear to tell you what happened. I was betrayed. I betrayed myself. In hindsight, I should have never gone back to school. I should have flown to the woods behind my house and stayed there, let my wings finish drying undisturbed. Then I might have risen so high that nothing could bring me down. Instead, my wings were clipped, over and over again. So were yours. Do you remember?
Lent begins this week on Ash Wednesday. Lent, in the Christian tradition, is a time for healing. We walk the road to Golgotha and see the horrors of the cross. We stand with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with Mary Magdalen and the beloved disciple, and we don't look away. When it's all over, we walk with the Magdalen and find the tomb empty. That is the message. The tomb is empty. The pain and the suffering are not to be found. There is only a garden, and He meets us there. He bids us to go, to fly away and tell the world that it has been saved, once and for all.
This idea that we should wear our misery and mistakes like a badge that identifies who we are is a lie. Often I have longed to be that 12-year-old girl again, the one with the glistening wings. She knew Truth, and Beauty, and eternal Love. I knew that she was still somewhere inside of me, for decades I knew. Sometimes she would surface and guide me. She was my Spirit-filled soul made visible. She is who I really am.
It's time to reclaim your lost girl or boy. It's time to shove off the accumulated dust and debris of past hurts, wrong turns, guilt, and misguided choices. It's time to do it in one, once-and-for-all heave-ho. "Get behind me, Satan!" Command this in the name of our Lord.
This morning, the first thing I saw was this picture, shared by a friend on my Facebook wall:
This was taken at a cancer hospital. Look closely. The snow has fallen as if Mary is carrying someone. When I could bear my struggles no longer, Jesus sent her to me. She led me by the hand to the Church of her divine Son. Still I have carried the junk of the past, every last piece of rotting flesh and dry bone. Spiritual warfare is real. The devil is glad that people don't believe so much in him anymore. He can go about his work quietly, performing spiritual lobotomy on anyone he can get his fangs into. He uses every tool in the shed, including the people closest to us, to convince us that we aren't good enough. That we will never be forgiven. That we can never forget our ghosts and must go on haunted forever. That at our core, we are not worth being saved.
It's a lie. I am NOT the sum total of all of the bad stuff that has happened in my life, whether it was caused by me or someone else. You are not your every false decision or careless action. You are not the abuse you have suffered. You are not who your monsters say you are. Turn on the light. See, the tomb is empty. Now turn around and be free.