No More Hiding
A while back I was talking to a detective who told me something he’d observed in suspects he’s detained over the years.
Holding cells are full of anxious and agitated people, but some guys are completely at ease when they’re arrested, and many actually lay down and sleep the moment the cell door slams shut.
If you didn’t know better, you’d think the relaxed person knows he’s innocent and will get him out soon, so he has nothing to worry about. But this detective’s experience was the opposite: the guys who rest easy the first night they’re in jail are almost always found guilty of the crime.
He had a theory as to why this was the case. Jail is a very stressful place, and certainly, if an innocent person was arrested, the fear of being wrongly convicted would spawn full-scale panic. The guys who go to jail relaxed are leaving a situation that was more stressful than being caught.
He explained that a person who’s committed a serious crime has been monumentally stressed for days, weeks, months, before being arrested. He’s been living on the run – either actively fleeing the law, or hiding the truth of the crime while going about daily life, pretending everything is normal. This guy is always looking over his shoulder, carefully peeking through window blinds, and wondering every time he sees a cop if he’s finally been found out. The stress of living like this is so enormous that being caught is actually a relief.
The person who no longer runs from the truth can finally rest.
Lent begins this week with Ash Wednesday, a time when we confess our sins and acknowledge our mortality. We place ashes on foreheads and speak the truth, “You are dust, and to dust you will return.”
Sometimes this strikes people as morbid or depressing, but the Church offers it as a release, an easing of burdens. Because much of the time, we run from the truth, and that’s no way to live.
The gospel doesn’t need to catch anybody who has committed crimes, doesn’t worry about locking people up for their transgressions, but it does invite people to stop running.
Many voices tell us to flee the truth. Our culture celebrates flawlessness, denies the reality of death, and doesn’t know how to seek forgiveness and reconciliation, when wrongs are committed.
Ads, articles, and facebook say we’re supposed to be mighty and joyful in every moment; we’re supposed to be beautiful and young, forever. We’re supposed to be right all the time.
But that’s not us. It’s not anybody. And if you try to live up to those kinds of impossible ideals, it will suck the life right out of you.
In truth, we’re everything we’re not supposed to be. We’re frail and finite. We get old. We make the same mistakes over and over again. We have far more depression and worry in our lives than our instagram feeds suggest. And we know how often our actions hurt the people and the planet that we love.
God knows these things, too. God is the source and the destination for all of our lives. We are created with all of our limitations, and God’s will for us is not that we be or pretend to be perfect. It’s that we allow ourselves to be embraced and guided by almighty love, between the dust and the dust.
If you’re tired of hiding from the truth, of senselessly denying the reality of the human condition, Ash Wednesday is for you.
This beginning moment in the journey of Lent is a time when grace reminds us that, even though we face pressures from every side, we never need to pretend with God. It’s a time to remember the promises of God’s faithfulness and forgiveness, and to choose honesty and freedom.
And friends, you’re invited.
Ash Wednesday Service
March 1, 6pm
102 E. 2nd St.
Davenport, Iowa 52803
The Table is a Christian church in Davenport, seeking transformation:
from greed toward generosity
from violence toward peacemaking
from isolation toward neighborliness
from fear toward faith