Drawing Out of Myself

Fellowship Meals

Fellowship Meals

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lenten season for Christians. On this day, many people attend a ritual of the imposition of ashes as a reminder of humanity mortality, or the human propensity to sin. By this beginning, Lent is a season of reflection and spiritual depth. Of relinquishing vices and shortcomings in order to grow closer to God. Of fasting from food in order to spend time in deeper communion with God. Of focus on spiritual disciplines in order to better attune to the voice and vision of God. Ash Wednesday and Lent have meant all these things to me.

Yet there is another meaning for Lent. In early Christian churches, the Lenten season was a time of preparation for new converts to learn more about Jesus so that they could be baptized into the community on Easter morning. Some understand baptism as a resolution of sin. For others, baptism is the beginning of calling into Christian life with God. At its heart, I believe baptism is about initiation into community. It’s the remembrance that we are not meant to walk alone. Individual spirituality withers without the love and support of others. Spiritual practices need group rituals and fellowship in order to nestle deep into our souls.

So this Ash Wednesday and Lent, I commit myself to deepening community. This is particularly hard for someone who lives with a depressive condition. When things become difficult for me, I go dark. I become silent. I engage social media less. I rarely post. I don’t write. I can’t write. I strip my life down to the basic requirements and strive to do that. I don’t share with many people around me. I pull in the three or four friends who don’t need explanations or smiles from me.

Lent calls me to something else. It calls me to widen community. Lent calls me to emerge from the solitariness that depression can foster and reach out to create community. Lent calls me to respond to when my faith community calls out to me.

I’m inviting friends over for dinners. I’m preaching at churches that invite me. I’m packing a bag of snacks and goodies so I can spend hours in fellowship with others who share my beliefs. I’m arranging play dates for my daughter so she can form deeper relationships with her peers. When I most want to withdraw, I’m drawing myself out.

So there will be no ashes for me today. I don’t need any more reminders of where I fall short, of what I can’t do, of the difference between who I am and who I desperately want to be. I spend many days in that place. I’m accepting the prophet’s offer of beauty for ashes, joy for mourning and praise for heaviness. Honestly, that’s work for me right now.

And for those of us with a radical understanding of incarnation, who believe that God’s breath is a part of all creation, then drawing closer to others is indeed drawing closer to God.

Book Monica A. Coleman to speak at your event.

Monica speaks with heart and vulnerability as she discusses some of the most challenging issues of our day. She speaks out on issues that churches and society often keep silent: mental health, sexual and domestic violence and religious diversity. In the pulpit, she offers a refreshing view of how scripture leads us to community and social action. In academic lectures, she blends her knowledge of religion, cultural studies and literature with social issues to offer new visions of faith. In every setting, she shows audiences how our faith can free us to be more and more of who and how God calls us to be.

Read More

Book Monica A. Coleman to speak at your event.

Monica speaks with heart and vulnerability as she discusses some of the most challenging issues of our day. She speaks out on issues that churches and society often keep silent: mental health, sexual and domestic violence and religious diversity. In the pulpit, she offers a refreshing view of how scripture leads us to community and social action. In academic lectures, she blends her knowledge of religion, cultural studies and literature with social issues to offer new visions of faith. In every setting, she shows audiences how our faith can free us to be more and more of who and how God calls us to be.

Read More