Tonight is week two of Lent. For one week many of us have abstained from chocolate, meat, alcohol, T.V, radio or whatever. Was the first week hard, you ask?
Is the grass green? Are there 24 hours in a day? Is the media biased?
Of course it was hard. Anything we enjoy that is a part of our routine is bound to affect our life when it disappears, or at least arouse our consciousness.
And so we persevere. We abstain, we resist, we say “no,” we say “no thank you,” we say “no damnit” and then smile apologetically swearing to ourselves that what we gave up is just food, just entertainment and we shouldn’t let it get to us.
And we resolve to be patient and wait for feast day.
Five weeks to go. Five more weeks of abstinence. Five more weeks of contemplation. Five weeks that will get darker and dimmer, not because we will become more obsessed with what we have given up, but we will be made more aware of what has been sacrificed for us. We will focus less on that chocolate and more on ourselves. We will turn away from the entertainment of the T.V. and be entertained by our souls.
Lent is a deliberate time of reflection, regardless of whether or not you gave something up. It is the color purple in the church, symbolizing royalty, but there will come a day, just a few weeks away when it will be the color black symbolizing sin that seems to triumph and death that dominates.
But darkness never wins. Light will always triumph. And Jesus will be resurrected. But until that time, we persevere. We wait patiently. And we reflect on ourselves: purple with triumph, black with guilt, red with anger, green with creativity and white with frailty. We wait. We persevere. We pray for Easter.
But that doesn’t make life easy does it?
Don’t tell me to be patient! You persevere through an 18 hour class load! You be patient when your boss is a bitch! You persevere through an eating disorder!
Don’t talk to me about giving up chocolate or beer or any of that superfluous crap! I gave up marriage for a career. I gave up my social life to pay the bills. I gave up college for this baby I didn’t abort.
Don’t lecture me on giving up stuff cause I spent most my life not doing stuff cause of the church and I’m sick of it. I’m ready to live for me.
Don’t admonish me to hold out to the end cause I persevere every day just to get out of bed in the morning.
Life is hard, I know. Life is fun, I know. Life is weird, I know. And we are at very different places in our journey. Some of us are old enough to have been to hell and back, and know the value of waiting on God, the peace that comes with perseverance. Some of us are too young to know what we do about pain, and we work harder at living day to day than the people who criticize us. We are all on different paths, but interestingly enough, the same God lights the way.
The same God walks with us where we are. The same God loves us when we triumph and when we fall. The same God heals our hearts and seals our souls. The same God waits on us even as we wait on Him.
And hopefully that gives us the courage to persevere even when it feels fruitless, even when it seems dark, even when life is too good to notice God.
“I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith,” Paul said.
And hopefully so will I.
I know, even now, that I have not fought for good like I could.
I may have not stayed the course as cleanly.
And my faith wasn’t always fortified,
But thankfully my God’s saving grace is not contingent on me.
And that gives me the courage to persevere.