Friday, February 19, 2010

neither here nor there

Twelve hours of driving through rain and snow and the entire state of Tennessee, and I'm in Mississippi. Lent always drives its way into my bones. I pray Psalm 51 on Ash Wednesday and can feel the world cracking open. Maybe.

Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

I don't know what a clean heart feels like. I don't know how broken bones rejoice. I don't know where to look for a renewed right spirit, and I certainly don't know what the hell hyssop is or why it has particular purging abilities. But this psalm worms it way into my head and into my heart. My life is not particularly interesting or dramatic, but these words and this psalm and this season convince me that my heart could be better. I could be different. Something transformative could happen. And so I pray for that.

Prayer happens best for me in gathered silence and in solitary transit. I have found in these last years that sitting in an airplane seat or riding in an early morning shuttle or rattling over the train tracks are the times that I am prone to prayer. There's something about being in between, neither here nor there but on the way that puts me just off-balance enough to access the part of me that still believes that God exists, that still senses the Spirit surrounding us, that can put my selfish self aside for a while and recognize what's going on outside my head. Something about Lent and something about being on the way breaks me open.

Lent broke T.S. Eliot open, too:
Will the veiled sister pray for
Those who walk in darkness, who chose thee and oppose thee,
Those who are torn on the horn between season and season, time and time, between
Hour and hour, word and word, power and power, those who wait
In darkness? Will the veiled sister pray
For children at the gate
Who will not go away and cannot pray:
Pray for those who chose and oppose

So, it's Lent, the time of being broken open. I'm putting myself in-between, on the way, neither here nor there, because I can feel it coming, and I want to be ready. I'm not sure, today, if I am the veiled sister or if I am the one torn between season and season. I don't know, today, if my bones are being broken or rejoicing. I honestly don't know much of anything. But I am on the way.

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