Let me start by saying that Lent is my favorite season of the church year. I’m not sure why exactly, except perhaps that it has always given some sort of sadistic license to the naturally pessimistic side of myself. (I’m surrounded by glass half full people—so annoying, as my glass has perennially—always—been down to the last drop.) Lent is a formal, liturgical season set for looking at the down side of life—what a bonus for those of us who enjoy brooding!
This year it all seems different.
This year has been a year in which I didn’t need Lent to see how far I veered off course. I’ve had a year of cold, hard reality and some harsh pain that has been so personal that there are very few who even knew I was carrying it (preachers don’t make mistakes–big ones, anyway; preachers don’t fail, at least publicly; preachers are perfect . . . so goes the broken record in my brain). I’ve hurt some people I love this year; I’ve failed in ways I’d characterize as a bit more dramatic than just crossing the edge of the road onto the shoulder for just a moment. There’s no need for deep reflection this year . . . I already know . . . and am reminded in various ways all the time just how badly I’ve failed.
So this year during Lent instead of a curious inquiry into the more shadowy parts of my life that I’ve been studiously avoiding, well, I am looking for something else. This year I am longing for a place where I can come and be fully known yet fully loved at the same time, a place that I’ve had a hard time finding lately.
So, this Lent when I hear again that I am dust and to dust I shall return, well, I’ll nod in total and complete understanding. Then I’ll turn to the altar, draped in black, and begin the process of unburdening my heart. One by one, I aim to unpack each piece of the pain of this year gone by, leaving it there for the One who already knows me—everything about me—but still loves me anyway.
I think, ironically, after all these years, I am finally getting to the core, to the essence of Lent. It’s not about wearing a hair shirt or self-flagellation or even making sure your list of grievous failures is total and complete.
No, for me this year Lent is about coming into the presence of God to rest for awhile in the only place . . . the only place . . . where I am fully known and still fully loved.