Ash Wednesday: Showing Up

"I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." -- Michael Jordan

It is a favorite quote in our house, one that hangs in Kurt's office, one that we make our kids read when they are up against the stresses of life and fear of possible failure. We cling to it like a kitten hanging from a high branch because we so want to believe that in the end our efforts, our failings and eventual successes will amount to something, will lift us up and bring us home to a place of safety and peace. 

When I ponder the journey to success through the lens of that quote, I envision a staircase, one that starts off with long, deep steps, whose foundation is made of messes and failure. And each step becomes more and more focused toward the top, yet still resting on that foundation of mistakes. More often than not misery and doubt carpet that early, messy place. But somewhere along the lines, those steps become small successes, and the momentum takes a turn, a new rhythm  develops, and the person reaching for that lofty goal, so determined to succeed, fails to even notice that no longer are they tiptoeing around their mistakes and messes but are being uplifted by their own success, no longer needing the stairs at all.....they reach a point where they can take off and soar. 

The thing is, most of us, leading ordinary lives, are not basking in the glow of MVP awards, championship trophies, fame, fortune. We do not always even have an end game, cannot even see a goal at the top, and are left wondering if there is one at all. We get stuck in the ruts of the stairs, sliding backward as often as we make progress, and when we read things about finding purpose and calling and thriving, not just surviving, our eyes glaze over as we scroll through our to-do list in the back of our heads and realize we have missed half of it, if we have even begun at all.....and the bacon is burning in the oven and the water is overflowing in the sink and someone clogged a toilet and everyone is hungry......and we realize that WE are hungry too. We simply cannot juggle all the balls we have going. Who has the time to sacrifice for success? And what is success if not the culmination of the many pieces of ourselves, good and bad, all coming together? 

This is the place I find myself in as we again begin the Lenten journey. I want to say that, because I am so empty, I do not need 40 days to ponder, to purge, to resist temptations, to prepare myself for the blessing of Easter. But the fact is, since moving here, my spiritual journey has stalled and taken a back seat, leaving me a lost wanderer in an increasingly bare desert.....perhaps the perfect place to find myself at the start of this season; unfamiliar and full of trepidation, yet somehow safe for I know I am not alone on this much needed journey. 

We do not show up whole and perfect. We do not need to. We cannot. Instead, we show up messy and fragmented, discontent and consumed and empty, and face to face with as many failings as there are stars in the sky. But we show up anyway. Just as God wants. And we are loved. 

And that is why we succeed. 

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