Only What’s Possible

Dreaming in Delaware: Only What’s Possible.
Dust and ashes have been traced into my forehead and my fingertips since seminary days at Duke Chapel. Skin-deep signs of repentance and mortality utter what words can’t express, yet I find the sounds of a poet are inscribed in my memory’s marrow:
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.”
We hear our grandma reciting this as she works in the kitchen or the yard. I discover the source of “A Psalm of Life” in the 6th grade, but by then, Longfellow’s stanza shaped my theology of Lent.
It is a season of reflection, a realization of life marked by mortality, but not defeated by despair or death. We are signed with the ashes of a cross, dusted with our own suffering, but…but…and here’s where the mystery of sacrament shines through the smudging: we are buried with Christ in baptism and we rise to new life.
Water and the Spirit. Tears mixed with the Oil of Gladness. Ashes of Palms and Psalms of Life. This is the holy stuff of our Lenten preparation. We’re keeping it real. Reality is human mortality. Bill can’t manage stairs any longer. That means both full baths are out of reach. A newly recovered old doorway makes the half-bath sink our only option for getting spruced up.
Since I was raised with the recognition that indoor plumbing isn’t in the Bill of Rights, I have “possibility skills”. What we need, we have: A Possible Bath.
It requires a basin, or an enamel pan, warm water, hand towels, and soap you can trust.
The process is simple. Warm water in basin/pan. Apply soap. First, you wash down as far as possible. Next, up as far as possible.
Finally, you wash “possible”.
You can do it yourself, but it’s certainly better, not worse, to share these possibilities. Richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, we are cleansed in life-giving water, and blessed with the oil of gladness. We can’t wash away our mortality, or deny its reality but we can celebrate that its dusty end is not our goal.
Eternity is God’s sense of what’s humanly possible