I had been in an emotional and spiritual struggle for years, processing how the Body of Christ could be so defined, so marked, by division, quarrels, and willful ignorance of each other. My spiritual journey had led me right into the middle of some of those painful internal wars, and I hadn’t escaped without getting hurt.
My wounds weren’t gaping open, but they were profound. I left them largely untreated because they were–at first–easy to ignore. They became infected with a certain amount of bitterness, anger, and cynicism, almost without me being aware of it.
Something happened to me, however, on Ash Wednesday of 2011. Baptists, Anglicans, Pentecostals, Non-Denoms all gathered together. I saw the auditorium filled with Christians with deep disagreements over theology and practice nevertheless admitting to one another their deep need for a savior, their total moral, emotional, intellectual, spiritual bankruptcy apart from the Cross of Christ and the promise of his Resurrection.
For a brief 2 hours, I saw the Church, not in perfect unity, yet nevertheless walking together toward Jesus. For the first time in a long time I thought she looked like the Bride of Christ. Hope sparked.
As we received Communion it was as if that spark turned into a roaring fire, and I found my hardened heart couldn’t stand it. Just like that, the bitterness, anger, and cynicism melted away and–in a word–I was healed of my old injuries.
I had hope once again that Jesus will in the power of the Holy Spirit make his Church what she is meant to be.
To me, this is the power of Ash Wednesday and Lent: making space to remember that at the end of the day, all our hope is in Christ, and we will never hope in vain.