Thursday, February 26, 2009

More Reflections on Ash Wednesday

Return to me with your whole heart. That was the line from Joel 2:12 that I heard early Wednesday morning.

Your whole heart, I thought? What can that mean, when your heart is not whole?

My heart is shattered.

It lies in tiny shards all over the ground.

Its jagged pieces spin into space, floating past Jupiter like lost little pilgrims.

Its dusty bits float on the oceans, bits of ash, sparkling grimly in the sunlight and filtering slowly downward, into the darkness where oddly luminescent sea creatures chart paths we can barely imagine.

One might want to turn to God again. The word metanoia slides off the tongue. It sounds graceful, and hopeful. But if God's desire is for a whole heart, if one can turn toward God only with an intact heart, then one is surely lost.

Late last night I turned to the passage in another version. Return to me with all your heart. Of course, I had known, in some small and isolated portion of my mind, that "whole" meant "all." I had known that in my own broken heart the response to what seemed a play on words but was really a conundrum of translation reflected my own longing for wholeness.

Your heart. In Biblical Judaism, the seat of your being. The essence of who you are.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. So end the readings for the day, with the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:21.

Barbara Brown Taylor has a wonderful sermon about the treasure in the field. (The Jesus of the Gospel of Matthew has a lot to say.) The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Why does he purchase the entire field; why doesn't he just dig up the one section? The treasure, she concludes, is scattered in plain sight, glittering all over the field.

Your heart accompanies your treasure and so there it is,

strewn across the field, scattered across the universe, mixed with the salt of the sea.

Return to me with your whole heart.

Return to me with the gift of a heart so cracked open that that in its wholeness it encounters brokenness everywhere.

Return to me with all of your heart.

You will find its pieces in places to which you would never have sought to journey on your own.

It is, indeed, an appalling thing, the strange mercy of God.

(Cross-posted at Desert Year.)


Choralgirl said...

Wow. No words.

Althea N. Agape said...

I'm picturing a little girl with all the pieces of a broken doll, coming to God and saying, "make it better".

Presbyterian Gal said...

yes it is appalling.

Anonymous said...

All I can think to say is pie Jesu eleison...

.......on us all.


PS. Thank you for the treasure in the field thing. Sounds about right.

Carol said...

Such beautiful yet painful images you paint of your pain and grief, GG. And yes, God is merciful. Prayers and hugs to you.

Magdalene6127 said...

Yes. Love.

Stratoz said...

Last night, after three hours of HS jazz, I imagine myself by still waters, and I hear... "You can heal." Our broken selves are called into miracles.

as for the five you just posted. camera and return to church came later, birds came much earlier, and you would not recognize me if I had not met M and Ignatius.