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As March 2021 approaches, we’ve been hitting landmarks that continue to remind us of what we didn’t know at this time last year. And how unaware we were that we were living through the end of an era. Oh, we were getting some pretty good hints by Ash Wednesday of 2020, but it seems that most of us just didn’t get what was going on or what was coming.

I’m not even sure how to pray this Ash Wednesday. What is appropriate when over 2.4 million people worldwide have died from COVID-19, including over 488,000 of my fellow Americans? As a people, we are diminished by the loss of so many. Grief tears at our hearts. If there were any doubts that from ashes we came and to ashes we will return, 2020 put a whole new emphasis on that statement of mortality.

Yet in this time of great loss and fear surrounding physical health, I am especially reminded of how human I am otherwise. Even as I am so grateful that I live and breathe, I am aware that my heart has hardened so much in this past year. Yes, I am sad at all we have lost—especially those people I’ve lost (not due to COVID). But when I sat down to write tonight, I was confronted with how angry I am. All. The. Time.

And not just angry, but also unforgiving toward those who do not approach the pandemic the way I do. More so lately as one in my own circle has been engaged in battle with this deadly virus.

This Lent I will sit with this anger and my God—and try to hear a way back to loving others.

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

What of the lost sheep who have acted as wolves in sheeps’ clothing? Who have caused us or others harm?

Yesterday a birthday passed for someone who has strayed far from his fold. Someone whose online messages state he is lost but who is not yet willing to turn to the Shepherd. Someone who has committed thefts, large and small, against his closest family members who now must maintain security systems to keep him out. Someone whose words so often turn out to be false. Someone for whom others have taken up the responsibility of raising his children. Someone who was given chance after chance to change his ways and do right, but who, so far, has not chosen to face the truth that much of what he is reaping is what he has sown.

So easy for me (and others more closely) affected by his actions to wish that he eat of the bitter fruits he has planted. To want retribution not resolution.

And, yet, what of those parables of the Lost Sheep, the Prodigal Son, the Workers in the Vineyard, etc. am I choosing to ignore? That nothing is impossible with a God who sent his son to save you, me, men who steal from their grandmothers and mothers, murderers, those who persecute the faithful, those who wish others to lie in the beds they’ve made—anyone who commits crimes against God and fellow humans—which is all of us.

How can I act as if I deserve grace any more than he does? Grace is always undeserved—that is the nature of grace. If God’s grace is sufficient, then it is sufficient for all, not just for those whom we judge to have not strayed quite as far others.

Shame on me for not believing that where there is God there is hope, no matter how much hurt a person has sown in this world. This man is a child of God and a child of his mother, who still longs deeply in her heart for his redemption—with God and with family.

At the same time, there is real reason for creating boundaries. Just because God says all are welcome at His table does not mean we need to extend that welcome to our tables while the actions and hearts have yet to change.

But what of my actions and heart also needs to change to be fully welcome at God’s table? If vengeance is God’s, then isn’t my job instead to pray without ceasing and to open my heart to the possibility that no matter the seeds that have been planted so far, that there is still time for a harvest that will bear good fruit?

Earlier this year Pope Francis declared a Holy Year of Mercy—a Jubilee—reminding us that “no one can be excluded from the mercy of God. . . .” No one—not even the lost sheep who have harmed us. Come, Lord Jesus, come.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

I can’t even begin to understand how prayer works—or if it even should in some ways—but I’m really grateful when it does. Often there’s no way to know a prayer matters, but you just send it out anyway.

My difficulty at slowing down tends to get in the way of praying, so it turns out that I send out many more bullet (i.e. short and/or random) prayers than anything else. Someone comes to mind and I call up a quick prayer to God. Even when I start out intending to pray longer for one person or one cause, often at some point my mind just drifts away. I figure if God can be God then He knows both the prayers I send and the endings of the ones I don’t finish.

Every time I see someone ask for prayer on Facebook, I try to pause and pray, even if I don’t really know the person very well. Sometimes I comment and give public support, but often the person for whom I pray may not ever be aware that I pray for them. The truth is we have no way of knowing how many people are praying for us, whether invisibly somewhere–especially thanks to the randomness of the Internet–or specifically as part of their prayer practice.

The other night I was the one who needed prayers. In the middle of the night I sent out detailed prayer requests to specific prayer warriors as well as a generic request on Facebook. Despite all the heaviness weighing on my heart, I slept well that night and woke up to see that many had responded to my requests.

I’ll never discover just how many other prayers were lifted in my name, anonymously, from people who paused in the moment and responded to my request, but I think I felt the power of all those interceding for me. My mood and thoughts were calmer and a seemingly hopeless situation took a turn for the better.

However prayer works, we should just thank God for it—in prayer, of course—as well as remember to continue to pray without ceasing for one another. We’ve got God’s whole world in our hands, too.

I’ve given up on easy sleep tonight, but still hope that a little keyboard time can reduce my impressions of my woes enough to bring about some sweeter dreams. You see, I’ve just had a bit of a revelation about my Wednesdays—something about them turns me into a Wednesday’s child, full of woe—woe and/or worry. Whatever is wrong in my life seems more powerful on Wednesdays lately.

The irony is that I start my Wednesdays in prayer with my fellow prayer partners in Moms in Prayer. The women and their prayers soothe me and yet some time later I become agitated. Perhaps just praying for my kids sets off my own self-reflection. I know my kids feel a little mystified as to why I continue to pray for them and why it would matter to me to join with others in prayer for them—and that alone makes me feel sad.

And maybe such prayers just point out to me how little faith I seem to have in the power of my prayers these days. Same prayers, different weeks—still my heart breaks over what doesn’t seem to change. Intellectually I get that answered prayers don’t often happen when I choose—and that in time all may be well. Such is the human condition, right?

But my heart has frozen and doesn’t seem to have a lot of room for hope these days—especially not on Wednesdays. Oh, I go through the motions, find peace in small moments during Moms in Prayer and yoga class, yet when faced with my afternoon, I do not do a great job of fending off those woeful thoughts. Later, when the clock says it is time to leave for choir practice, I am not sure I can bear to sit so close to other people, nor muster enough focus to leave my thoughts behind so I can sing the words of faith. Yet go I do and, again, I find moments of peace even if they do not last see me through to sleep.

So the question is what can I do to resist becoming a Wednesday’s child? Just one more week and MIP breaks for summer. Will that alone make a difference? If so, does that mean such agitating prayers are really bad for me—or just something I need to experience on the way back to hope? Or should I change-up the rest of my routine so I am not home alone where I am too easily drawn into melancholic thoughts?

All I know is by the time I have “far to go” as Thursday’s child, I seem to have regained enough faith to go and go and go, which means something about Wednesday is driving me to woe. Just understanding that may be enough to help me to figure out how to change the pattern enough so that next time I become Wednesday’s child, instead of full of woe, I may be full of faith.

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