This past week was Rosh Hashanah, a Jewish holiday that kicks off ten days of naming and releasing our sins – both those that we have done and those that have been done to us. I love that there is an entire community worldwide that is pausing to take inventory of their lives, to name their sins and hurts, and to thrust them out of their lives. It is an annual way of cleaning out, of repenting and clearing the slate of our souls before God. I think my favorite parts of this holiday are the embodied practices like the blowing of the shofar and casting bread upon the water to symbolically cast away our sins. So, this week, I told my kids that Jesus was Jewish and we were going to celebrate and practice Rosh Hashanah together. We stood together by our little backyard swimming pool and Russell blew the shofar horn, and we held some bread in our hands. Then we paused to take inventory of things we had done and things we had left undone, ways we have not loved God or our neighbor as ourselves. Then we took our bread crumbs and with a big motion, we threw that bread into the pool. The next day, Tim and I stood alone together by a river in the mountains, and we once again threw our sins symbolically into that flowing river.
It is not any act of my own that brings about repentance and forgiveness, it is only by grace through faith in Christ that these realities become mine. And yet still there is something so very powerful about embodying these internal realities alongside others in visible and earthy ways. I imagine I will keep throwing my bread – that is to say my sins – upon the water in the days to come because those places of unforgiveness keep creeping back up in me and I find I need to name them and release them repeatedly before I am free of them on the inside. Which is why it is especially powerful to me to actually do something with my body rather than only with my mind and heart. Of course I can just do this all silently in prayer, but it is not the same, and this year especially I needed a way to get those impossible feelings out of my body through bodily action. Embodied spiritual practices make what is invisible visible and memorable — this is the value of rituals. To light a candle. To taste the bread and wine. To take myself to a body of water, hold the bread in my hand, throw it, and watch it go away from me. This is a picture of what God is doing for us in Jesus, and it feels good and true to embody it.
Love big. Be well.