“You may write me down in history / With your bitter, twisted lies, / You may trod me in the very dirt / But still, like dust, I’ll rise.” Those defiant words of Maya Angelou’s poem, “Still I Rise,” echo in my head as I prepare for Lent this year. I imagine Angelou echoing the mind of Jesus as he faced the suffering of Good Friday, “You may shoot me with your words, / You may cut me with your eyes, / You may kill me with your hatefulness, / But still, like air, I’ll rise.”
Next week, many in the church will begin the intentionally slow journey toward the cross of Christ. Lent, the season of 40 days leading up to Easter, is a time of preparation and repentance. The traditional practices of Lent include fasting (going without something), prayer, and giving alms. The idea is that we make room in our lives by taking things away (food, television, a hobby, etc.) so that we can make more room in our lives for spiritual attentiveness and devotion. We free up our resources so that we can make them available to God (such as giving up our daily coffee run and giving the money to a charity).
Lent is also a time to take stock of our lives. At my church, we begin the journey by placing ashes on our foreheads as a sign of repentance. Traditionally, these ashes come from the burnt palm leaves of the previous palm Sunday. However, we have adapted this tradition by spending time writing down personal confessions, burning them, and placing those ashes on our foreheads as a sign of our intention to “die with Christ.”
This year, however, Lent is hitting me differently. Where we typically sit amidst the metaphorical rubble of our sin, it only takes a short drive around our community to find literal piles of rubble lining our streets. I am in no way suggesting that January’s tornadoes were a result of our sin — as if God were punishing Griffin and Spalding County — but that the Easter themes of resurrection and new life rising from the ashes of disaster take on new significance.
This week, members of our community will be constructing a public art piece entitled, “Words from the Rubble,” to symbolize this reality of life rising from the ashes. It will begin with a cross on the corner of Hill St. and Taylor St. made from debris collected during the storm. A few weeks from now, during Holy Week (April 2-9), seven “stations” will be added that will contain the “seven last words of Christ” for reflection and meditation.
My hope is that our community might find hope and new life through the message of Christ this Lent and Easter. May this exhibit might cause us to reflect on what we’ve lost, what we might need to give up in our individual Lenten journeys, and the many places where new resurrection life is defiantly rising up all around us.
I pray that our city and county may soon be able to echo with Angelou’s refrain, “Still, I rise.”