During the Lenten season, I’m going to try to post a series on Mondays reflecting on different aspects of the season. Hold me to it!
A couple weeks ago I wrote about my friend Gina who was having brain surgery in San Fransisco. (She’s doing well, btw.) The day of the surgery, I couldn’t go more than about 5 minutes without thinking about her and Justin. I prayed with them on the phone just as she was being wheeled into the operating room, and I called Justin throughout the day, checking in. I just couldn’t stop myself from worrying/praying/thinking about these people whom I love and what they were going through.
It’s kind of like that, when you have crisis going on. No matter what you’re doing, your crisis is always in the background. No matter how light and breezy you try to keep things, no amount of television, food, alcohol, prayer, laughter, music, stupid iPhone games (insert your own distraction of choice) can really take it away. You may have a few moments of respite here are there, but something will always jerk you back down to reality and you’ll remember the thing that’s weighing you down. And it will sit in your gut like a ton of bricks.
Jennifer and I were talking last night about people we know who have serious stuff going on and how you can’t compare crises. You can’t say, “this person’s marital difficulties is more of a crisis than this person health issues.” These things just can’t be compared. Crisis is crisis. Period. And yet, we find ourselves sometimes minimizing our stuff because “hey, I’ve got a friend with a tumor in her brain,” so my stuff isn’t really that important. Except that it is, to us at least. And so we carry it all the time.
But this isn’t about us, it’s really about how many of us are carrying something that’s heavy to us. Many of us it seems are trying to keep it light and breezy but inside we feel like last hiker on the trail with a backpack full of stuff and we can barely carry it anymore, and everyone ahead seems to be so strong and having such a good time. And so, no matter what we’re doing, there’s always this thing.
Saturday night, I was skimming my Twitter feed and came across another excellent poem from Micah Murray that captured this really well. Here’s an excerpt:
there’s a lot to make a heart sad
we have all these songs and prayers and candles and poems about
hope and healing and all shall be well but
it’s february and i can’t tell where advent ends and lent begins
i can’t tell much of anything anymore
do you have any idea how impossibly impractical
dear god i have a love / hate relationship with
(well, everything these days)
but specifically the gospel because
“all shall be well” feels less like
a fragment of light on the horizon and more like
a fragment of shrapnel in my gut
So, here’s what this has to do with Lent. Jennifer said to me last night, “once we get through this season of our life, I never want to forget how it feels. I never want to forget that in a room full of people, somebody is full of ache.”
I think Lent is a season where we artificially create ache. We create a void through fasting from something important to us that causes us to reflect, to help us remember what it’s like to carry heavy burdens. Lent is a season that is supposed to drive us back towards prayer, towards desperation, towards identification with those who ache.
So, in this Lenten season, may your fast – whatever it may be – cause you to ache. May it cause you to remember the times where you’ve cried out to God in desperation because you just didn’t know what else to do.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.