Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Sugar and Ashes

Valentine's Day and Ash Wednesday coincide today. 

For me that has meant sugar in my mouth from the frosting on the lemon pound cake made by a dear friend - thanks, Yolanda. Sugar to remind me that there is still sweetness in the world - even though there are ashes in the air, ashes in my eyes, ashes all around me. All around us.

For me that has meant ashes on my forehead. Ashes I applied myself because I didn't go to church today. I haven't gone to church in a couple of weeks. I no longer serve as a full-time pastor - at least not at the present. 

Sugar from 37 years of life and love with my dearly beloved husband, Steve.
Sugar from 6 years of memories for our eldest child, memories of loving and being loved so well, six months after the sudden death of her beloved partner, Chris.
Sugar from watching our youngest child make a life with his beloved partner, Tarryn. 

Ashes from bombs dropping.
Ashes from buildings burning.
Ashes from dreams and lives and entire cities gone up in smoke.

Sugar and ashes coincide today as Valentine's Day and Ash Wednesday are one and the same today. But the truth is that sugar and ashes are our lot every day. Sugar and ashes are our food every day.

Because every single day, celebrations and parades are cut through with fist fights and gunfire.
Every single day, babies are born and grave diagnoses are given.
Every single day, new businesses open for the first time and old ones shutter their gates for the last time. 
Every single day, some partners get engaged while others separate and file for divorce.
Every single day, some words are spoken tenderly and others are spoken passive aggressively. 
Every single day, mean-spirited politicians spew rhetoric about the danger of immigrants at the same time that schools and libraries and playgrounds echo with the sounds of curious children speaking in many languages and their hard-working caregivers provide the aforementioned politicians with delicious food and clean homes and new roofs and manicured lawns and secret lovers. (Don't get me started on politicians and their smarmy, hate-filled, violence-inducing rhetoric. Deep sigh...)
Every single day, those "dangerous immigrants," serve as doctors and lawyers and bankers and teachers and interpreters and nurses and take care of their own children and their own neighbors - just like the rest of us. Because ultimately, there is no "them" and "us" - there is only us. We are all there is; all there is, is us.

Sugar and ashes.
The combination makes for a discerning palate.

The bitterness of unnecessarily sharp words spoken in a condescending tone of voice sounds nothing like the sweet sounds of laughter in the company of true friends.

The burning sting of tears in my eyes after seeing 36 Seconds: Portrait of a Hate Crime will soon be offset by the soothing tears of joy that flow after laying eyes on the faces of the members of my Hallmark Movie Club. 

The acrid taste of ashes in my mouth as I imagine the plight of grieving parents in the Gaza Strip is temporarily soothed by the sweet smell of the six month old grandson of the first woman who made me feel at home here in Charlotte more than twenty years ago. My friend transitioned to her next life more than ten years ago, but her daughter continues to shine the bright light of love and joy that my friend exuded so long ago. And that sweet, squirming little baby boy that I held in my arms a few days ago, he is the embodiment of joy.

Sugar and ashes.
Five years and seven months of service at a church I loved.
Sermons preached and lessons learned.
Sweet relationships and salty ones too.
Tenderness and tears.
Goodness and goodbyes.

I will take time now to rest, recover, heal, and be whole again.
I will take time now to sort through the ashes and savor the sugar.

Sugar and ashes.
Love and mortality.
These are two of the most abundant elements of life's volatile and beautiful, tear-soaked and love-fueled, bitter and sweet experiment. 

Dear reader, may your sugar outweigh your ashes today and every day.
May your ashes cause you to savor your sugar all the more, friends.
All the more. 

1 comment:

Mark Logan said...

Beautiful. And how stirring that March 31 coincided with Resurrection Sunday and Trans Day of Visibility. I certainly haven't fleshed it out in poetic fashion like Sugar and Ashes, but I think there is a powerful Easter message that things that were once buried can be brought into the light and celebrated, just like our Risen Lord! -Mark Logan