I don’t like darkness. In all my best dreams, I’m in a grassy, wide open field with the morning sun on my face. I do not like Lent, the 40ish days in the historical church calendar plopped in-between Epiphany and Easter.
I’m an Advent girl, with it’s candles and hope and weight – but not Lent – she’s too much – to heavy. The Eastern Orthodox call Lent the season of bright sadness, which for me, mirrors our lives here on this planet.
Not far from my doorstep, there are people experiencing the worst life has to offer – oppression, marginalization, dehumanization, starvation- all those words that are written too often and are too easy to say but so hard to stare in the face and enter into. That’s what Lent is for me – intentional time to go into the darkness, the painful, the mucky, and the bloody – in the world and in our own being.
My favorite image of reconciliation and community is a table – with a seat and plate for everyone. That’s how I imagine heaven – and life at it’s most full. For a few years, I pictured a well-worn wooden table with mis-matched dishes and cutlery, and of course there were blue vintage mason jars full of wildflowers because I’m nothing if not a pseudo-hipster and a Georgia peach.
But, (can you begin a sentence with but?) I’m learning that yes, while the table here on earth is beautiful, it’s also incredibly messy. It’s soiled and cluttered with bullets, blood, cocaine, bigotry, resentment, chemo, plates that have too much, and plates that don’t have enough, puss from unhealed wounds rubbing up against other unhealed wounds, shame, bitterness, hubris, and guilt. We bring our whole selves to this table of life – and it’s scary to dive into one another’s wounds as well as our own; to look at ourselves and souls laid bare without our various armors and self-protectants.
That is Lent.
That’s what Jesus does – he climbs into our junk and calls us beautiful and stays there with us and then shows us what redemption looks like, which is also messy and not easy or romantic but so good – like Genius’ right-relationship good.
So during Lent, we get to know our wounds and our beauty and our appetites, our excesses and our scarcities – and we ask for help. Then, we get to know the wounds and beauty and appetites and excesses and scarcities of the world -and we ask for help, again.
Jesus’ journey to death and life again is the promise of life from death – a journey marked with betrayal, beatings, celebration, bread and wine. Lord, have mercy.
In Godric, Fredrick Beaukner writes, “ What’s lost is nothing to what’s found, and all the death that ever was, set next to life, would scarcely fill a cup.” So, this Lent – I’ll try and wrap all my hope around that truth – and the one who puts on skin and moves into my neighborhood and darkness, and shares a meal with me there – who calls me beloved and makes safe holy space for me and everyone else to be with him forever. I’ll carry that into this season and life of bright sadness.
Words and photo by Erin Miller, Intern Extraordinaire