Lent is beautiful.
I told someone that tonight and surprised myself.
I didn't really learn what Lent was until 2005. Let me re-phrase that. I knew the definition, the tradition, the eating fish on Fridays, I'd even practiced some of it's disciplines. But it wasn't until I became a member of Mosaic and experienced my first real journey through Lent that I understood it. The forty days plus Sundays were a time of constant reflection for me. Never have I been so involved in religion that it became an everyday part of my routine; no, more than that, an everyday part of my consciousness. That year I gave up pop I believe: a drug to keep me going. In addition, I fasted lunches during the week and journaled that half-an-hour instead. It was 2005, there was much pain early on that year (and unbeknownst to me, much more to come), and my prayers were fervent. On Sundays at church, I watched our worship space get darker and darker as we slowly we began removing the candles and dimming the light. By Good Friday it was pitch black in worship. My eyes adjusted some to the darkness, but mostly I just listened intently. And for the first time in my life I cried at the death of someone I'd never met. I cried for Christ. It finally hit me that I loved a man who died, and a tear slid down my cheek.
Easter that year was beautiful though; bright with Easter lilies all around the worship space. We changed the seating completely, we turned on the lights, we decorated with flowers. All was new for the people who entered. And you can see how I really "experienced" Lent emotionally that year.
Last year for Lent I gave up alcohol during the week, and took my college students through the wilderness of Lent as we worshipped and learned together in Beresheth. It's so depressing, my colleagues complained. But it's Lent, I probably replied. And it was a good chance for me to teach some good Baptists college kids what Lent was designed to remind us of.
But it's purpose is not only about things becoming dark, the stripping of the sanctuaries, the black cloths, the unlit candles. It's so much more than that. So this year, thanks to Sam and his cohorts, I was reminded of what I did instinctually and obediently that first year, that Lent is about more than giving up something, it is about giving to (too). So as I had abandoned my lunch, I offered up my prayers. This year again I have given something up, but am focusing more on what I am giving back. (And no, I'm not telling what either of those are - it's private, between me and God, and we'll see what results from it).
In Beresheth last week, Roger spoke about the elements of Lent, how it started, how we are called to help usher in God's will on earth as it is in heavenly. We are called to have heavenly days, to live seeing the world through God's eyes.
And so instead of spending Lent mourning, I will spend it observing, watching God at work, appreciating God's creation and joining God to bring about heaven on earth.
Never the less, for the next four weeks of Beresheth (sans one week in March), we will study what it means to have the ashes smeared across our foreheads: equality, mortality, something-else-I-can't-remember-now, and persecution. I know that sounds depressing. We all know depressing: I watch the news and get depressed. I look at the temperature gauge on my house, take off my sweater, wonder at the mystery of winter, and get nervous. I listen to men and women who speak to me of guilt and sorrow and a desparation to know a God they feel they have let down and it is saddens me. It's depressing not to see ourselves and not see the world as God does.
But that for me is why Lent is beautiful this time around. Because my focus is not on the sorrow, the grieving, the coming to terms with Christ's death only to be released finally by a joyous resurrection. This time it's about heaven on earth, being Christ to each other, recognizing (painfully) our mortality and seeking to make the most of every day, to love every person. Our sin has got to go, there's no time for it. Only time to love God and love each other. So repent, repent, (i've never heard that come out of my mouth) turn around and start over. Not on Easter, but now, today, during Lent. Let's make life beautiful. And if they abhore us for it, so be it. There are worse things in life than to be hated for doing what is good and pure.
You are good and pure. Not of your own essence, not of your own self, not of anything you've done. Just by being you, a child of God, gazing up, repenting, and turning around, ready to behold heaven on earth... and join right in.
Lent, it's beautiful.