Lent 1

ashwedesdaycross
Allow me to reintroduce myself…

My name is Wayne William Bowerman. Apparently the name Wayne is of English origin and means “wagon maker.” I am trying to decide if this is ironic for someone whose life long passion is to create things with his hands. Someone who feels like he is perpetually going nowhere.

William is Germanic in origin and means “resolute protector” or “determined guardian.” I was named Wayne William, after my grandfather. He physically and mentally abused my mother and all of her siblings. I guess passing the name on to me was my mother’s way of trying to forgive and make peace with her past. I am just trying to live into the real meaning of my middle name.

Bowerman is apparently also from old English and roughly means “house servant.” What is the opposite of irony?  I waited until I was 26 to go to college. This is because I was scared to fucking death of rejection and failure and I had a 2.75 GPA in high school. By the time I finally drew enough strength from those around me to muster up the courage to try, I felt the die had been cast. I was going to be a pastor. I went to a Bible College for two years that was more like a Bible study and a meet up group for young singles. Wanting a more academic study of religion and having just been married before I started college, I transferred to a more rigorous, accredited, Christian liberal arts college and graduated with a BA in religion. I then went on to seminary. I worked my ass off to receive my Master’s of Divinity. Then I spent almost a year working at a church. I was fired for saying what happened to Trayvon Martin – or more specifically, the verdict doled out to George Zimmerman – was a miscarriage of justice.

True, pastors are supposed to be “servants of God’s house.” But that career was short lived. I am now 40 years old and have spent most of my adult life working in customer service: retail clerk, gas station attendant, and currently I am an inbound sales and customer service representative at a call center.

In the last two years, life as I knew it, did what it so often does. It crumbled. I am divorced. While I have been able to somehow maintain my status as an ordained minister in a mainline Protestant denomination, I haven’t worked for a church in three years.

Lucky for me my mechanism for survival is also my life’s passion: writing. I am privileged and honored to host an open mic for a city that is brimming with talent. Each week I open and close with a set of spoken word poems. This city is full of open mics and I try to make it to other shows when I can. Spoken word poetry has made a huge come back here. And the city is ripe with talented singer-songwriters, hip hop artists and some pretty funny comedians. These artists are my teachers. And I am still blown away every time one of them is touched by something I have written.

But I also care for two kids and attempt to co-parent with someone I spent 13 years with, only to change, grow apart, and watch both of our dreams turn to ash. It can be a bit taxing at times. I am building a life with a new partner, my closest friend for 20+ years, and a true goddamn saint. She is a miracle. But bills, schedules and everyday stresses can sometimes leave us both feeling like we need an exorcist. And I am trying to fumble my way through being a servant for demanding (and sometimes demeaning) customers. Sometimes my energy is gone before lunch. In the midst of it all, I simply don’t spend enough time writing. Prose, poetry, fucking haikus, it really doesn’t matter. I need to write!

For me, not writing, means I am simply not taking good care of myself. And I can’t love those around me well if I am not loving and taking good care of myself. Those closest to me happen to be my adorable, affectionate, anxiety- ridden 9 year old daughter, my cuddly, sweet as confection, and cantankerous as a mule 7 year old son. And Amanda. Imagine all of the most romantic sonnets and the half dozen or so of quality love songs that were ever written. Now channel them towards a feisty redhead to whom the sweetest of words are mere elixir without a proportionate amount of action to backup all of those sweet nothings. She likes a good poem. She appreciates having a thoughtfully prepared dinner or a heartfelt but sloppily written note of encouragement after a 12 hour work day even more. Save the eloquence. This woman’s life is a poem.

Today is Ash Wednesday. Christians worldwide begin the season of Lent and people who aren’t familiar with the Christian tradition look at their coworkers funny for having a dirty forehead. It has become en vogue, or perhaps even passé to give up “vices” for Lent. When people who couldn’t give a shit less about the church or the meaning of Jesus, use the season as motivation to give up chocolate in an effort to lose a few pounds or see it as a catalyst to try in vain to quit smoking one more time only to treat their family and coworkers like crap for 40 days, perhaps some of the meaning has been lost.

Traditionally, three practices – that one is supposed to regularly partake in – are taken up with renewed vigor during Lent. The practices are prayer, understood to be “justice toward God.” Fasting or “justice towards ones self.” And finally, almsgiving, that is charity or the practice of “justice towards ones neighbors.”

I talk to god everyday. Old habits die hard. But I am not sure that a god “up there” a god “beyond our galaxy” is listening. I do believe in a sense of justice and peace that pervades the universe. I believe it reaches -perhaps even resides in – us all. I believe that this sense of justice and peace or “shalom” is capable of penetrating even the most grotesque of hearts, if we simply listen to it. But we talk way too damn much. So for the next 40 days I am going to listen.

I don’t have one particular “vice” that I am giving up for Lent. But I waste a hell of a lot of time: endlessly scrolling through social media, rarely commenting on a friend’s happy pictures of a life I have convinced myself must be better than mine, eating too much food, drinking one too many beers or watching a bit too much easy escapism on tv. So for the next 40 days, I am giving up the lazy life for the writing life. I will forsake the late night snack or extra episode of whatever Netflix series I am binging on to get in a post each day. With the exception of Sundays. Sundays are feast days and I can watch Blacklist until my heart is content and drink an extra Dragon’s Milk. A commitment to writing. And some semblance of balance. That truly would be practicing justice toward myself.

In all honesty, a lot of self defeating thoughts and feelings fill me up before, during and after all that wasted time. I can’t love myself if my head is full of guilt and worrisome thoughts. And if I can’t love myself – and do it well – I can’t provide quality love to my daughter, my son, to Amanda or to that asshole at work that is trying to quit smoking for Lent. But that sense of justice and peace that pervades the universe and is capable of piercing and perhaps even mending a broken heart like mine, “calls me” to love them all. It beckons me to love them with renewed vigor.

So, I invite you into the journey. Remember, O man, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return. I want to love and really live before I return to the dust from which I came. Hopefully the next 40 days will be a concentrated effort towards that end.

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