Since the beginning of 2016, I have had my purse and its contents stolen, a stomach bug/bout of food poisoning that left me void of food for 36+ hours, and a looming change in what I know of my world on the horizon that has me constantly playing Hermione Granger’s voice in my head saying “everything’s going to change now, isn’t it?” and then Harry’s ominous reply. Yes, yes it is.
Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. A day I never could’ve imagined would hold such significance in my life.
I wish I remembered more of the details. I vaguely recall talk of getting Sweet Tomatoes after, and feeling like if all my friends were going, I should too. That’s kind of what it boils down to, essentially. I was peer-pressured into going to church through an appeal to both my appetite and intense fear of missing out. I give ‘em credit for knowing their audience.
I remember where I sat. A section of the Sanctuary that I don’t think I’ve sat in since. I remember thinking how odd it was that they sang a song about hating God. I didn’t know much, but I knew they weren’t supposed to hate God. Or at least not sing about it in that room, right?
I wish I could say I remember what I thought of Isaac. Or what was said. Or even getting the ashes, receiving communion, if I was uncomfortable or not, if certain phrases or song choices felt alienating. I don’t.
I remember “Amazing Grace”. And I guess what feels kinda ridiculous now in hindsight is how much that song knocked me over that night. I mean, I’d obviously heard it before.
But it struck me as brand new information. And I don’t know if I could tell you why exactly, but it shook me up. Shook me up enough that I turned down that Sweet Tomatoes trip and went to Barnes and Noble and bought a blue journal instead.
It’s not my most eloquent handful of entries in between Ash Wednesday and Easter, but they’re dear to me in a way nothing else I ever write will be. They’re this snapshot of a girl who couldn’t quite put into words what was happening around her, but it was the biggest, most important change she’d ever experience.
Those entries are the clearest indicator I have as to why “Amazing Grace” knocked me over. They’re reminders of the lies I was telling, the boundaries I was crossing, the job he lost, the boy I lost, and the parts of myself that I was giving up thoughtlessly. It’s really no wonder at all when I re-read these entries that I was starving for whatever kind of grace I could get my hands on.
These past couple weeks at work, I’ve been helping to promote Ash Wednesday services using the phrase “a great opportunity for each of us to look at our own personal need for a Savior”.
Yeah. I remember feeling that need in such a visceral way that I for some reason showed up again. And again. And showed up so many times that eventually someone had the idea to give this lying, manipulative, and tainted girl a desk and a title.
It still feels a little unfathomable, but not as unfathomable as the fact that that Savior I have a “personal need” for, he’s the one that “Amazing Grace” song kept talking about, and that amazing grace is for me. It covers every inch of the stories written in that blue journal. It covers every inch of the stories I’ve written since on the countertops of bars and the couches of counselors. I wasn’t even a little prepared for it to change everything, but it did. Obviously. And it will continue to. And I’ll resist it and I’ll challenge it and I’ll question it and it’ll keep coming back and knocking me over and reminding me again and again that it is good and it is mine. That he is good and I am his.
So what’s all this got to do with stolen purses and stomach bugs and a slipped in Harry Potter reference?
The past few weeks have kicked me around more than I care for. And when a big change like the one I know is headed my way is within reaching distance of me, I get a little anxious, scattered, terrified. I become that 19-year-old girl with her new journal frantically asking/writing “what now?”
Well. I didn’t know the answer then, but it was Jesus. I know the answer now, and it’s still Jesus. I’m as equipped as I’ve ever been to know him better and chase after him with all I’ve got. If I could do it back then, stumbling around over all that shame and all those questions, I don’t see why I can’t do it now. I don’t see why I wouldn’t do it now.
How quickly I can forget that change isn’t always bad. That every single scary change or hard thing that has blown my way has been waded through and I always end up on the other side— either clinging to Jesus, in awe of what he manages to pull me through kicking and screaming, or simply laughing with him at how silly I was to be so scared.
Either way, I’m on the other side and he’s there too. Through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come.