Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. Every year for the past few years, I’ve tried to participate in Lent. Usually, I forget what I promised to give up or add during lent somewhere in week two and then just forget about Lent all together till I arrive at church Easter Sunday and I realize…. oops.
For those of you who know me, you may be confused why I’m talking about Lent, after all, if you know me from east Tennessee, you may have met me in a baptist church and baptists usually don’t participate in something so… Catholic. But I guess some people could consider me a Baptist-Catholic. Being raised on a farm in South Louisiana with several catholic friends and mardi gras every year… Lent became more important to me when I moved away to college than when I actually lived in Louisiana.
That’s my dad, I call him Papa. Papa owns a deer farm and that’s our favorite deer May-May…. This has nothing to do with anything other than I love Papa dearly and miss him so.
However, The real reason I’m writing is to tell you a story that happened many years ago on Ash Wednesday. I might have been in high school, about age 16 or so, but I can’t remember. You have to understand a little background on me first. I grew up in a bubble, a bubble so big that my family called me bubble-girl. I was born and raised baptist and stayed in my little baptist bubble. I tend to stay in my own little world and I don’t quite notice what other people notice. I truly try not to be this way, but it’s the way I’ve always been… Growing up, I also had a deathly fear of being “left behind”.
I mean, I was afraid that Jesus would come back and rapture my entire family and I’d get left behind. I got my little behind beat for waking mom and papa up so many nights because I was just seeing if they were still there! Letting me read the “left behind” series as a kid probably turned out to be my mother’s worst nightmare
Anyways, one day I was supposed to meet my friend at Target the Wednesday after Mardi Gras. In Louisiana, we get school off during Mardi Gras so we can participate in everything, but back then, it didn’t really mean anything to me. So I remember, my 16 year old self in my little, naive bubble, parking to meet my friend Kallie at Target. I arrived at Target about 10 to 15 minutes early, got out of the car and walked inside. I went to the DVD section and started looking over what movies were available. I was so focused on the movies that I ran into this lady. I looked straight up into her face and notice something dark like a bruise on her forehead. Well, that’s strange, I thought.
I glanced at my watch and checked my cell phone for Kallie’s text. I looked up again to navigate my way back to the front of the store and nearly every person I passed had the same bruise on their foreheads. Most of the people’s bruises looked like crosses, but some were little smudges. I began to think back to my Left Behind days, my mind raced. Panic Filled me.
What’s the mark of the beast supposed to look like?! I couldn’t remember. I started looking for that evil number on people’s hands… what’s the number 555? no.. no. 666? THAT’S IT! My phone rang interrupting my thoughts. Terror filled me as I realized it was Kallie calling me. She was left behind too, thank God. Wait, why am i thanking GOD?! He LEFT us!
I answered the phone, “Hello?” my voice quavered, tears filled my eyes, “Kallie, are you okay?!” panic filled me again. I swear i was hyperventilating!
“Yeah,” she answered, “Why do you sound so weird? I just pulled up to target.” I ran through the mass of bruised forheads to the parking lot outside. The world was spinning. What were we going to do without our parents? The grass was no longer green, the sky was no longer blue, they had switched. Oh crap, the world really is ending!
I ran to Kallie once she got in my line of vision. Ashamed that I was freaking out, I tried to hide my fear, but my eyes still misted. “what’s wrong, sara?” she asked, seriously concerned.
“Well, I was in target… and i noticed the bruises on everyone’s forehead. They’re in the shape of… crosses”. As I choked it out I had to refrain from telling her i couldn’t see the number 666 anywhere, but maybe that would appear once the bruises healed. I looked over at her expecting a serious reaction.
She burst out laughing. “Sara! It’s ASH WEDNESDAY, boo!! Them people went and got them ashes from them priests! It’s the start of Lent!”.
The start of LENT? ASH Wednesday?? The pieces started to fall in place. I had always wondered why it was called “Ash” Wednesday. It never made much sense to me…
Since that fateful Ash Wednesday, my life has improved. My bubble has expanded further beyond just me… much more than any of you know… and I now some years (not this year due to schedule conflict) even partake in Ash Wednesday. What glorious thought! The world isn’t ending the day after Mardi Gras!
Happy Lent, Y’all!