On Lent

From 2009

It doesn’t look good. Just the other day I heard about a few acquaintances who have lost their jobs. In the scope of the disaster, they are lucky – at least one person garnishes a wage, and they’ve saved enough to manage. Another might move north to cheaper rent.

So we’re going to be in the wilderness for a while. People are hunkering down, spending less and taking shelter. People are even buying less beer. Or at least they are buying cheaper beer. And beer is counter cyclical.

Perhaps Lent is a lot like an economic depression.

Some years I’ve used this time to practice new habits. One year was so horrible, Lent became my excuse to party. Usually I give up some food group, but other times I’ve added a task. Sometimes I have six or seven new disciplines and ended up with just one by Easter.

However, I don’t think Lent is primarily about “giving up sugar in your tea” or discerning all the ways you’re bad. We can be reminded of that on a regular basis, even without Lent. After all, we fall short often, even when we work arduously for whatever prize we seek. Jesus didn’t go into the wilderness because he needed to become more perfect or because he was supposed to give something up. He was driven there to understand who he was.

The wilderness is, by nature, a place where humans aren’t meant to be. Human beings are social, and we tame nature. In the wilderness, we are vulnerable and exposed. We could easily get killed.

There are times where even the strongest of us becomes weak and terrified in the midst of immense challenges. We become alone, and just like a small child, we become aware of the monsters (Metaphorically. Real monsters are actually furry, polite and misunderstood) that await us: a sudden loss of one’s livelihood, an imagined slight, a real slight, a betrayal, a misfortune. Yes we are deeply alone; temptations and illusions await, and we don’t know what we will say or do when they happen.

But this sense of loneliness, this “depression” is not meant to be the place we land. It allows us to reconsider the superficiality of our previous life. And perhaps we realize that there is a power that will allow us to reconnect even more deeply with others. And that is the power of the spirit which resides in every human being, that life force that cannot be dulled or finally beaten forever. The first stimulus package is the awareness that Easter is on the horizon. And that even in the midst of lent, we can still connect and find the true self that awaits to be lifted up and empowered.

H. A. Williams says that during Lent we discover that yes, the bucket of water in our soul is a lot like the ocean. It is teeming with life and of great depth. Let the next 40 days be a time to plumb those depths and discover the love that has filled all things in you.

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