Monday night I went to a dinner. It's a dinner called Ultreya, meaning onward. The first Monday of every month I go to this dinner and I share precious time with a unique gathering of people. We are all there because of one common bond, and that is our participation in a retreat called Cursillo. Several denominations have these retreats, and they come in many forms tailoring to the needs of the group. The purpose of these retreats is to ask the question "What now?" How do I take my utter gratefulness in being saved by Christ out into the world around me? Here we are, Christian and all, so what now?
We often times have been through a personal journey or we are facing a journey of some sort. Many of the Cursillistas on my weekend were cancer survivors or people living with a chronic and debilitating illness. Michael and I were facing a move to a new city, leaving behind a very comfortable and supportive group of friends and believers we very much counted on. Our house went on the market the day we left for the retreat, and we left our 3 yr. old with a babysitter for the weekend for the first time. I was six and a half months pregnant, supposed to be on bed rest (I didn't find that out til after I got back), and Michael was commuting two hours round trip for work til we moved. We had no health insurance due to that waiting period with new jobs, and we were feeling a bit uneasy about the whole situation. The week before I felt Satan attacking. I had contractions, I was completely irrational towards Michael, I hated everything we owned, I didn't think we had enough money or enough this or enough that. I had way too much to do to go spend three days in the woods, without my only child and no phone, talking to God. I wasn't going to even share a room with my husband. I had to room with a woman I had never met before. What if she snored? What if I had to get up fifteen times a night to pee? If it hadn't been for Peggy Williams showing up at my door, ignoring my protests, packing my suitcase in her car and ushering me to the passenger seat, I would not have made it. Seriously. But I did. And the weekend was a period of pampering and listening and sharing and rejuvenation of the Spirit within each of us that attended. It was a time when we felt Jesus through the people around us. It made us want to share the gospel, to shout it out loud and proud, because it was so, so good. It was that mountaintop experience.
Ash Wednesday is the time we remind ourselves we are dust. And to dust we will return. And somewhere in between the dustings we are to be Jesus to each other. We are to share the gospel, to walk like Christ. But it gets hard, and we get tired, and we forget. So here is our Ash Wednesday. Our reminder. It is the first day of forty days of preparation for the death and resurrection of our Lord. It is our time to prepare again for our time between the dustings. It is our time to pray to our Lord and to walk a walk like His. It is our opportunity to have another mountaintop experience, in a different way than the restful form of Cursillo. We can have another bonding time in communion with God by intentionally giving up and giving outwardly more than we may do the other 325 days of the year. We can begin to experience renewed compassion for Christ and also feel His grace reaching out towards us. Satan will be there, no doubt. If he tempted Jesus, I guarantee he will tempt us. But we have Jesus to lead the way. He's been there. Done that. And when we come off our mountain on Easter Sunday, He will be there still, filling up all of our crevices with the Spirit, His Spirit, when we move onward.