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  • Writer's pictureEllen Romer Niemiec

In My Rent Garments

I am struggling to imagine a world reconciled to God. It is not the world I see around me. The horrific attacks on Israel on October 7th. The seemingly endless suffering of the people in Gaza. Mothers and their children being trapped in razor wire and drowning. Migrants arriving in my city hoping to finally find welcome not realizing they are political pawns being moved here and there. As if somehow every last one of these people are not equally made in God’s image.

We are starting off Lent with the call to be reconciled to God, to rend our hearts. This is not a new call. This is the same call we hear each Ash Wednesday: Rend your hearts. Be reconciled to God. Now is the acceptable time, not tomorrow, not when it’s convenient. There are  plenty of new things to rend our hearts over. But it is certainly our hearts that need to be broken. Do all of the social media posts (like this one) and coat drives leave our hearts more open to hear what God is asking of us? Now is the time for no more empty shows of love - God wants us to show up with our hearts broken by the suffering of our brothers and sisters. Just as God did in the time of Joel. In the time of Jesus. And now. 

Rending my heart scares me. It scares me a lot. In the past months, I have encountered more and more families waiting outside grocery stores hoping for the generosity of those who have the means to buy and choose what will sustain them. I stumble through language barriers and try to bring them something to eat. But I don’t always stop. Even when I do, I then head to my warm home with my bursting bags of groceries where my children are safe.  Is this my rent and broken heart or just a few garments? Am I doing this for them or for me?

If I really and truly rend my heart, what more will God ask of me once my heart is torn open? I am afraid of the answer. I am afraid of what that kind of compassion will bring me. Lent leads us right to the answer - to Jesus on the cross. My prayer this Lent is that I continue to discern when I am rending my garments and stepping out in ashes for others to see. My more daring - and frightening - prayer is to find the courage to rend my heart more deeply and find myself closer to the cross. 

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