Day 1/Ash Wednesday: Rend Your Heart

Image: Rend Your Heart © Jan Richardson (click image to enlarge)

Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
rend your hearts and not your clothing.

—Joel 2.12-13

From a lectionary reading for Ash Wednesday: Joel 2.1-2, 12-17

Reflection for Wednesday, February 22 (Day 1 of Lent)

Rend Your Heart
A Blessing for Ash Wednesday

To receive this blessing,
all you have to do
is let your heart break.
Let it crack open.
Let it fall apart
so that you can see
its secret chambers,
the hidden spaces
where you have hesitated
to go.

Your entire life
is here, inscribed whole
upon your heart’s walls:
every path taken
or left behind,
every face you turned toward
or turned away,
every word spoken in love
or in rage,
every line of your life
you would prefer to leave
in shadow,
every story that shimmers
with treasures known
and those you have yet
to find.

It could take you days
to wander these rooms.
Forty, at least.

And so let this be
a season for wandering,
for trusting the breaking,
for tracing the rupture
that will return you

to the One who waits,
who watches,
who works within
the rending
to make your heart

—Jan Richardson

2016 update: “Rend Your Heart” appears in my new book Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons. You can find the book here.

P.S. For previous reflections on Ash Wednesday, please see The Memory of Ashes, Upon the Ashes, The Artful Ashes, and Ash Wednesday, Almost.

[To use the image “Rend Your Heart,” please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

30 Responses to “Day 1/Ash Wednesday: Rend Your Heart”

  1. carolyn Says:

    Delighted am I to have this blessing to prep me now, to carry within and without during the upcoming Lenten days: ‘spot on’, Jan ~ thank you.

  2. Maureen Says:

    Deeply resonant and wonderful blessing, Jan. Thank you.

  3. linda Says:

    I will be using your poem in my personal devotions on Ash Wednesday.

    Thank you so much for sharing your heart!

  4. deb Says:

    Thank you for this.
    ( here via a share on FB)

  5. Patricia Says:

    Jan, I now realize it is superfluous for me to receive these daily blogs re: Lent by e-mail. I have your website on my Desktop at all times and I will wait and follow along with you on the exact days of Lent. Thank you so much for offering this.

  6. Andy Pierce Says:

    I’d love to use your Reflection in our Diocese Newsletter, if you are amenable to that. I’ll make sure there’s a pointer to this website, and give you the credit…

  7. claire Says:

    What a beautiful blessing and invitations for the journey to come!
    Thank you!

  8. Linda Goddard Says:

    Hi Jan,

    What a lovely blessing–one I will carry with me into Lent! Perfect! Blessings to you!

  9. Sheryl Says:

    Jan –
    I’m preparing to preach on Psalm 51 for Ash Wednesday. Your poem summerizes what I’ve been hearing the Holy Spirit speak through that psalm. I will continue to use your poem as a meditation for my daily Lenten journey. Thank you for your inspiration.

  10. Lynda Myres Says:

    Hello Jan

    my friend Asta introduced me to your beautiful, inspiring and deepening website. I’d love to share your Ash Wednesday blessing with our congregation tomorrow night. I’ve been thinking about the space we can find during Lent to explore ourselves and our relationship with God and each other, and your blessing encourages us to do just that. Thankyou. Lynda

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Thank you, Lynda! I’m grateful to you for your words and to Asta for sharing my site with you—how lovely. I’d be delighted for you to share the blessing tomorrow night. If you share it in printed form, I’d be pleased for you to include a link back here.

      Thank you again, and many blessings to you and your congregation as we cross into Lent!

  11. Jan Richardson Says:

    Dear friends! Thank you so much for your comments and the gift of your words. They are manna for my way, and I am grateful. Deep blessings to you as we cross into Lent.

  12. Lisa Degrenia Says:

    Hello Jan,
    This year we are diving deeply into Lent with a full day of Ash Wednesday services (6:30am, 11:30am, and 7pm) plus a continuous Ash Wednesday Prayer Experience from 10am-9pm. We’ve borrowed the prayer labyrinth from St. Luke’s UMC and have other prayer stations for persons to explore. With your permission, we would love to use the blessing Rend Your Heart as the meditation persons read before walking the prayer labyrinth. Thank you again and again for being a vessel and path for God’s grace and power. – Lisa <

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Thank you, Lisa! Your plans for Ash Wednesday sound wonderful. I’d be delighted for you to use the blessing. If you would indicate that it’s from The Painted Prayerbook and include a link, that would be great.

      Many blessings to you and your congregation as we cross into Lent. Thank you again!

  13. Maribeth Says:

    Very nice.

  14. earthchick Says:

    This is so beautiful and perfect. Thank you for it, Jan. Blessed Lent to you.

  15. Hilary Campbell Says:

    Gorgeous words as always, Jan. I read them this evening at our Ash Wednesday service. Many thanks.

  16. Becky Voges Says:

    As I read your beautiful words I thought of the children who sat on my lap today in my music classes. They look to me for love, acceptance and unhurriedness that they seldom get. I so look forward to Lent and now I will look for your emails. Thank you for your gifted writting.

  17. Beverly Brazier Says:

    Thank you so much for this blessing. Best thing that happened to me all day, and a beautiful thing to hold during this season.

  18. Murielamack Says:

    Thank you so much. In Bible study, we are doing The Mind of Christ. It connects so well with that. Bless you.

  19. Madgephotog Says:

    Words cannot describe how substantial these words are for me today.

  20. Liz Says:

    May I read this as part of an ash wednesday service…it is lovely, and of course I would be sure to say where it came from.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Thank you, Liz! Yes, I’d be delighted for you to share this in your Ash Wednesday service. Many blessings to you and your congregation as Lent arrives!

  21. Bee Says:

    I just stumbled across this beautiful reflection and lack Liz before I would love to share this at My Ash W service, I hope that is ok with you. Thanks for sharing.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Thank you, Bee. Yes, absolutely! I’d be delighted for you to share this at your Ash Wednesday service. You are always welcome to use my blessings in worship. Peace to you on this Ash Wednesday, and many blessings as Lent begins.

  22. Byron Smith Says:

    Thank you.

    I too would love to use this as part of our Ash Wed service with attribution.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Thank you, Byron! I would be delighted for you to use this blessing as part of your Ash Wednesday service. Many blessings to you and your congregation as Lent begins!

  23. Trish Says:

    Just glorious. Thank you so much. I will also use it with attribution!

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