by Kimberly Whetstone
I walked to the front of the sanctuary with tears rolling down my cheeks. I laid my Lenten prayer request at the foot of the cross: Lord, help me to release my desire to control my own destiny. I exchanged it for a prayer card: Father, help me in this season of Lent to experience a new level of your grace.
Walking toward the pastor, I tried to muster the strength for eye contact; after all I am a pastor too. We help. We power through. We are the first to come and the last to leave. We carry the broken to the cross when their legs fail them…though this is actually the work of the Body of Christ which we own solely too much at times for our own broken purposes.
But as I approached, eye contact evaded me. I was overwhelmed. I was tired. I was frail. I needed someone to carry me to the cross. All I could do was open my hands as the pastor put thumb to ash and marked the sign of the cross on my forehead proclaiming, “You are dust and to dust you shall return.”
Ash Wednesday, March 1, 2017, marked the beginning of Lent: six weeks when Christians across the globe turn their hearts toward Jesus and with renewed fervor seek the face of God in preparation for the resurrection we will celebrate on Easter. As believers, we engage in the spiritual disciplines of fasting, silence, solitude, self-examination, confession, study of God’s Word and many more as we receive God’s invitation to repentance and abundant life. Each discipline creates space in our souls and margin in our lives where God can do the transforming work that only the Divine can do, revealing to us where we have strayed from our Heavenly Father and awakening us to our deep longings for more of God. Each discipline is an invitation for us to acknowledge our status as dusty, sinful, frail, created beings who are deeply loved by God and only in Christ and through the power and gift of Christ are capable of transformation.
With each discipline we engage in two acts: laying down and taking up. We lay down our desires, appetites, and sins, through fasting, repentance, study and prayer and we take up trust in God as our savior who has overcome sin and death and receive healing for our souls. Through it all, we lay down and surrender our false identities and we take up our true identity as redeemed Children of God through Jesus Christ. In acknowledging our utter need for God, Lent teaches us that freedom and transformation are possible and we are deeply loved by God just as we are: beautiful, broken, sinful, redeemed dust.
Maybe you were raised in a tradition where Lent was a part of your spiritual rhythms or maybe not. As a pastor, what of your dustiness is God calling you to embrace, acknowledge or repent of over these next six weeks? Where is your heart longing for more of God? What is God calling you to lay down or surrender, and what is God inviting you to take up?
You are beautiful, broken, sinful, redeemed dust. With open arms, God extends an invitation to you this Lenten season to embrace your dustiness and let God be Lord of your life. Will you receive the invitation?
Kimberly Whetstone is the Discipleship Pastor at Parkview Community Church (Glen Ellyn, Illinois) where she has served since 2011. Prior to Parkview, Kimberly served homeless
teen mothers and their children in residential ministry for 5.5 years. During her training at Northern Seminary (M.Div. 2007), she served as a refugee ministry intern at World Relief and a chaplain at MacNeal Hospital where she cared for families in crisis and lead worship for the general population and psychiatric patients.
Kimberly serves as an Adjunct Professor of Pastoral Care at Norther
n Seminary (Lombard, Illinois) alongside her favorite psychologist and husband, Dr. Toussaint Whetstone. They have two children and work together to create environments where people and communities can experience wholeness and healing in Christ.