This is Ash Wednesday.
If you darken the door of a church today—or even if you read the paper or the news online—you’ll hear about “sin.” That’s what Christians are repenting of today.
Which is true, it’s just that there is a great big ironic problem which would be comic if it were not so tragic. That is: we humans are so clever. We have found a way to take sin—which is merely the sadness of selfishness—and make it . . . all about us! So we have catalogued our sins and rank-ordered our sins and divided them into categories of mortal and venial. We have created elaborate and blasphemous religions in which “God” keeps track of our very vanilla peccadillos (as if “He” were as bored as we), and we are supposed to be on our best behavior. We have made sin a personal industry. In a strange way, it’s a comfort. After all, it gives us something to do. It keeps us busy.
The sin you are meant to face today is your selfishness. You are trapped in your little self. All your efforts at “being a better person” are still about you, when what you yearn for is to transcend that little self, and find your true Self-in-God. That is the Self that doesn’t care anymore what it looks like, or what other people think, doesn’t care if it’s “successful” or sought after or beautiful or handsome or sexy or smart. That God-Self (lying just below the surface of your over-active, nervy little self) is strong yet quiet, energized yet peaceful, aware of its poverty and emptiness and plain-humanness yet without a hint of guilt. It just is!
The sin we want to be freed from today is not little, nit-picky wrongs, but the soul-destroying sin that saps our joy and keeps us trapped in the little self. Keeps us selfish. What you want more than anything else is to live a healthy, happy life that moves you to reach out to others and find your deepest joy in service.
To renounce self-ishness and live here and now inside a greater, wilder, stranger, more passionate, humble and loving Self. Now, that is a sin worth repenting of.