Sackcloth & Ashes Defined
In Old Testament times an individual, as part of either the grieving or atonement process, donned sackcloth (an uncomfortable, itchy garment made from goat hair) and sat in ashes or heaped ashes upon his/her head (or both). These outward signs mirrored an interior disposition.
When used to represent grief, the nature of this action clearly depicted sorrow. When used to represent atonement, the sorrow spoke to amending past actions and accompanied a desired or already implemented change of heart.
Do we ever see this happen today? We stand subjected to public shaming of others on a constant basis through tweets, posts, even news stories jumping quickly on the band wagon of blame. Judgmental and accusatory language reviles the ‘other’, leaving breathless and beleaguered any who observe in passing or offer even reasoned defense.
But do we ever see an individual take responsibility for his/her mistakes with an outward display of sorrow and repentance? What kind of dramatic transformation would public penitence take from biblical times to register in this 21st century world of instant, often electronic messaging?
Sackcloth & Ashes – A Poem
The Lenten season lends itself to meditation and introspection. In keeping with its start just days ago, the following verse composed itself after meditation. God’s idea of penitence (which references sackcloth and ashes and served as inspiration for the verses below) often looks quite different from ours.
My prayer is that this poem fills our hearts with love, understanding, and patience as we struggle together in a world quick to blame and reticent to forgive.
Based on Isaiah 58:1-9
Yesterday I shared a post upon my FB page
Quickly met repudiation tinged with mildest rage
Point of view deemed unaccepted, biased and aloof
Was not in the mindset of those who demanded proof
I had fallen prey, like all men, to an outward lure
Wanting ways to justify and spout my favored cure
for the ills of others’ making, surely God would see
how I’d donned sackcloth and ashes – justifying me
Never one to leave us hanging, His Word ever fond
Set the straightest path ahead about the stance I’d donned
Stop the judging and maligning when you don’t agree
There are more important matters for your heart to see
Love your neighbor close at hand and hug the ones who mourn
Focus on the ways in which compassion will be born
Act with kindness, smile though tearful, dress your naked sons
When you’ve done all this and more you’ve only just begun
Do the good where you are able as I have defined
Stop pursuing avenues which only serve to bind
thoughts of others needlessly, upon the worldly stage
Follow me and love your brother on that FB page
Have you ever regretted the manner in which you tried to express your view? I’d love to hear your approach to great communication – share below in the comments section (and invite a friend to view and subscribe too).