Lent started yesterday with ashes, as it always does. It was the tears that were so unexpected. For some crazy reason, I didn’t sleep the night before Ash Wednesday. I have to get the boys to school and I have to work which means the only Ash Wednesday services I could get to had to be at night. My Catholic church had a 6:30 Mass. The university had one later than that but I was completely exhausted. My kids were going to the Catholic church with their father. ***Sigh*** I wasn’t up to facing my ex. Maybe another church. I checked the times and found I had other options. But at the last possible moment, my mother asked me if I was going to Mass and could she come with me. Mom hasn’t been up to going to church since Christmas and she loves our Fr Tom so I didn’t even suggest the other parish I had in mind.
We settled into her usual pew, way in the back. That suited me just fine. I haven’t been there much for quite some time and I wasn’t feeling especially social. At the start of Mass, my ex’s new girlfriend announced that she and he would be our lectors for the evening.
Oh my God. Really? REALLY?! I really do not have the stomach for this tonight Lord.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have an issue with her. I’ve met her a few times. She seems very sweet and my boys like her. And I truly don’t care what my ex does with his life because I don’t have to be part of it anymore. I managed for the last six years to avoid the Masses where he served in any visible role. High holy days, I’ve learned to shut my eyes if he does serve in any visible role. But lector? I didn’t expect that one. And here I was, trapped as the captive audience.
‘RUN!’ Oh yeah. The Gremlin showed up full force. That bastard was loving this.
‘This has been my home for almost thirty years and I’ll be damned if I’m leaving.’
‘Have it your way, Kid.‘ The laugh. The awful, nasty, evil laugh.
My ex read the second reading last night. 2 Corinthians. I can close my eyes but I can’t close my ears. My only option for avoiding this was to walk outside. To literally get up and walk out of Mass. I couldn’t bring myself to do that. I steeled myself. thought I could handle it. I was wrong. As a result, I heard something else entirely. Years of emotional abuse replayed in my head at full screaming volume interspersed with The Gremlin’s snickering. So what I heard went a little something like this:
Brothers and sisters:
You stupid, miserable waste of breath
We are ambassadors for Christ,
You are USELESS! TOTALLY USELESS!
as if God were appealing through us.
You are the worst mother I have EVER seen…
We implore you on behalf of Christ,
Know what’s wrong with this house?! YOU’RE IN IT!
be reconciled to God.
Stupid, hopeless piece of trash!
For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin,
You are so completely WORTHLESS!
so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.
A worthless PIECE OF S***
Working together, then,
we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.
For he says:
You are NOTHING but…
In an acceptable time I heard you,
and on the day of salvation I helped you.
A. COMPLETE. AND. TOTAL.
Behold, now is a very acceptable time;
behold, now is the day of salvation.
At first, I started to laugh and that immediately turned to tears that would not stop until many hours later. Waves of nausea washed over me and I fought to keep down what precious little I’d had to eat on this day of fasting. All the while I desperately fought the urge to run. I pleaded for Him to silence The Gremlin, for sanity, for calm, something, anything…please just help me.
I love you. Stay with me. A whisper, nothing more. To walk out the doors was to walk out on Love. And He was asking me to stay now. I couldn’t walk out on Him.
Calm didn’t come and the racket in my head didn’t subside. Those few minutes felt like hours and when they were over, I felt eviscerated. I received ashes with tears still running freely down my face. By the time I received Communion I was shaking all over. Something inside broke loose last night. One of my protective walls came crashing down on top of me. I don’t know what exactly. I still have walls inside of walls inside of walls and I’ve long since lost track of the where or how or why of most of them. I invited Him into that space a long time ago and apparently He’s decided to rearrange things a bit. I was still teary this morning as I washed the ashes from my forehead. I sat at the beach this morning in spite of the cold. After a little while, the last of the pain subsided and the dust inside finally started to settle. I suspect Lent is going to rough this year.