Forehead Smudges

February 13, 2013

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Out of respect for Ash Wednesday… I remind myself today of words I wrote years ago- but still very much mean.

I am truly fascinated by people’s souls. It seems that I relate in some way with almost every soul I have ever really known.

I was visiting a house full of men who had all recently been released from prison. I did not know what to expect but as we walked in with a few insignificant gifts for them to open around Christmastime my heart melted.

I saw an older man with his worn shirt tucked in, pouring lemonade, the grainy kind that you add water and stir, and cookies that looked store bought, but were arranged in a pattern on a plate. The other men were there to greet us with smiles as if they were welcoming the president. I had rushed getting there that night with sitters and carpools and wrapping but at the sight of these humble joyful men, my heart slowed and I wanted to be no where else. We went around the room and each man shared a little about his life.

Men with tears confessing with true ownership their weaknesses and mistakes. Hearts bleeding for the damage they had brought to those they love and hearts gushing at how God had forgiven them.

I wanted to be like them- these men recovering from the consequences of sin. I wanted to need God like them and feel broken like them and be transparent like them. It is as if they were already exposed…. already caught. Screwed up was written on their forehead- no need to act like it wasn’t. And something about that brought freedom.

And my soul resonates with that- blond, mom of four, pastor’s wife connecting with criminals fresh out of prison…. I am a human… and humans arrive with “messed up” on our foreheads. We come that way, somewhere between toddlerhood and grown-up we learn to put away our forehead sign. Sit up straight. Be good.

But before God I am no different from these men… my forehead is clean- my soul certainly is not. That day on an old beat up sofa with some old beat up guys, God showed up. God shone more through those accused and hurting men than through me… I’m getting more comfortable with messy forehead signs.

I am screwed up.

And Jesus is my hope.

Maybe my little protestant, evangelical self will start celebrating Ash Wednesday.

12 Responses to “Forehead Smudges”

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  3. Cara Winslow

    Hi Jennie,
    I am using your Stuck curriculum with a ladies’ Bible study at our local pregnancy care center. We are loving it! Had a new member join this week who was hoping that the student book came in Spanish. (Just a thought):)
    The video this week shared your story of Cooper at bedtime. I just saw on your website the video of your getting Cooper from Rwanda. I’ll have to show our ladies next week! So sweet!!
    Thank you for your ministry! and blessings to your beautiful family!!

  4. Barbara Culwell

    Thanks Jennie. Just what I needed to hear tonight. I am in desperate need of God’s grace, just like the prisoners. Thanks. God’s Blessings on you!

  5. Oh girl. I am feeling every word of this one. My husband is involved in prison ministry, and occasionally I attend communion service with him. And I remember distinctly, one time, sobbing when I approached the communion cup in a line of prisoners, thinking, “We’re all the same. We’re all exactly the same, really. We’re just looking for real freedom, no matter what side of the razor-wire we’re on.”

    We all stood in one long line in that prison, hungry beggars needing forgiveness. We dipped wafers into one common cup. I knew it to be true, right in that moment, when I inched forward: The ground is level at the foot of the cross.

    Maybe you could say we’re all criminals—that more than one thief cried out to Jesus that day on Calvary. I do know that Christ whispers forgiveness over all of us. And I read that same truth all over your story here.

    (Jennie … Thank you for your words. You’re a gift. I pray that God blesses and expands your ministry. )

  6. Tonight as I sat in the Ash Wednesday service I was thinking about how two years ago I was in the middle of such transparency because sin had been exposed and I was a mess…but I was open and honest and I was trying to figure things out. I want to feel like that again…nothing needs to be “found out” or “exposed” but I want that transparency again…oh God please help me to be transparent.

  7. I love this wrecking of perspective. Yes, we are the same. And me, too, maybe “my little Protestant Evangelical self will start celebrating Ash Wednesday.” Cheers for the wrecking. And soul baring.


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