Day-off. I headed to London. Aside from a mid-morning stop at a carefully chosen independent coffee shop and an event I was due to attend later in the evening, I did not have too much else planned.
Sitting in said coffee shop, I dig out the life story of Oswald Chambers (‘Abandoned to God’ by David McCasland). A few pages in, I come across reference to Chambers’ experience of a much-loved London landmark: ‘He loved the cavernous silence of St Paul’s Cathedral, where he could ponder the astounding blend of art, architecture, and worship created by the legendary Sir Christopher Wren’.
That was all the inspiration I needed. I had to go, so I headed eastbound on the Central Line and towards St Paul’s.
As it was Ash Wednesday, there we no tours available but there were a series of services to commemorate the first day of Lent. I was really excited by this because I have never been to an Ash Wednesday service, despite being a Christian for a number of years, nor paid too much attention to what the day actually means.
Sitting there later that afternoon, reminded that from ash we have come and to ash we will go, and surrounded by the delicate magnificence of the Cathedral and the ethereal sounds of the choir, I felt so human as I saw afresh my own brokenness and fallibility.
I was helpless.
And yet, in that moment of helplessness I took a deeper look at my surroundings. In the beauty and magnitude of the Cathedral’s walls and dome, the warm smell of incense and the faultless sounds of the choir, I felt so helped – each unmistakably pointing to the amazing grace of Jesus.
Tender, warm and so hopeful.
If I dwell too much on my own mistakes and susceptibility to weakness and wrongdoing, I despair. I am in sinking sand. But if I lift my eyes to the cross, where Jesus took the place I deserved, I find myself on a solid rock and I am running. I am free, forgiven, secure, welcomed, helped, comforted, strengthened, saved, held, totally and utterly loved.
A treasured child of the Most High.
During an address one of the ministers said: ‘We are the created; God is the Creator. This should free us’. For me this Lent, I will remember these simple words, for they capture the beauty of what I received afresh on Ash Wednesday. I need to readily acknowledge my need for help, for undeserved grace, and let Jesus take the burdens and sin that weigh me down. He takes them all so humbly and willingly so I could be free.
He is my Father and I am so thankful.