Lent... It's not Christmas, that's for sure. It's not a season when we're hanging the holly and lighting the tree, twinkling and throwing gifts around like confetti and singing carols to strangers. It's not a season that glitters. It's a season that begins with a smear of ashes. With the words, "Remember that you will die."
Ho ho ho. Bleh.
It's only Friday... I've only been fasting for three days. Not very well, I might add. I eliminated Facebook... but then added cake... because there was a void in my soul that needed filling. (If I skip cutting it into slices and just eat the whole cake with a fork, it's only one piece, right? Right. I have eaten one piece of cake in three days.)
Anyway... three days... and already it's becoming clear... my joy and stability is mostly founded on a carefully contrived system that I tenderly guard to preserve myself from suffering. And it has begun to quaver. I took out one little piece of the scaffolding that holds me together on a daily basis and the foundation of my tenuous joy is already wobbling. Already I have been forced to remember what a dry, dusty foundation my life stands on. How fragile is my joy. How easily blown to bits.
Now, I'm not one to say, "Oh, well, if I can just stuff enough Bible into the Facebook void I'm going to find true joy." Come on, now. Don't play. If you've walked a long, enduring Christian walk, you know it's not magic. Not poof. Not instant fix. It's a longer, quieter road to righteousness.
And, really, I don't think that's actually the point. The point is not to look at my quavering knees and think, "Ah ha, I will do more things and be stronger." Lent has a different call, if we'll listen.
Lent doesn't call us to see that the halls are bare... and deck the halls.
Lent doesn't invite us to recognize that the foundation is weak... and choose trappings and tra la la.
Lent calls us just pause and to look at the empty house... to be present and reflect on its meager state.
Lent calls us to repentance.
Ah, look. How paltry is my joy.
Ah, look. How feeble is my devotion.
Ah, look. How anemic is my faithfulness, how emaciated is my courage in Christ, how misguided my values, how misplaced my sense of meaning.
Ah, look... How deep is my need for Jesus.
Because fasting is not a form of Christian calisthenics to muscle up to the bar of God's favor. It's just a more honest reflection on the truth of our state of being. It moves us physically, toward a more stripped-down place... so that we can see and understand the unvarnished truth about ourselves more clearly. So we can realize we were never truly happy. Never fully satisfied. Never actually complete. Not on our own.
Lent. Sigh. I'm not a huge fan.
It makes me feel exposed. It makes me feel vulnerable. I work hard to patch up the limping, gaping holes in my nature (to bandage rather than heal my hurt)... to cobble together as much happiness as I can rend out of life's stones. And Lent, darn Lent, comes in and shines a light in the corners and shows that the house I'm living in is all paper mache.
Remember that you are but dust... Remember that you will die...
Lent calls me to turn toward something greater than contrivance... something more enduring... something that will last and stand... something that will not blow away...
The stakes are high. And the battle cannot be won by decking the halls.
Thank you, Lent, for being the season when Honesty is king. When the Hall Decking must be put paused and the barrenness of our place without Jesus must be reckoned with. You will never be my favorite. I like your pretty sister, Christmas, much better. But I appreciate you. You turn down the static music on the radio dial and you make me listen to the empty air waves so that I know that what I really long for is a full symphony... and in doing so, you make the promise of Easter more clear, more poignant, more perfect. More deeply to be desired.
Thanks, Lent. I guess.