is heavy life, yet like lace,
with all its order
designed to be seen through, I see and
the bit that’s brighter
– From “Lent” by Maurice Manning
Why Lent? I mean what is it, besides refraining from certain foods – a laundry list of “nos”? One has to be careful not to treat it like a formula instead of a state of being. To me, Lent is the tidying up of my cluttered and musty soul. It’s being intentional about pausing and turning inward, allowing the tools the Church prescribes for us (prayer, restraint, stillness, almsgiving) to enter into it and open the windows, letting in light and fresh air.
What I long for is an inner life adorned with beauty, calm, and quiet (a haven from stress and anxiety), but I am not strong or disciplined enough to resist the lure and pull of the noise and bedlam “out there.” It gets under my skin and keeps me fearful, dissatisfied, and resentful. All I see are my losses and potential losses, all I hear is despairing and hateful rhetoric. Grumbling becomes my default. I gorge myself on the mindless consumption of voyeurism, excess information, material possessions. It’s all just escapism, and it’s empty as hell.
Lent is a caring mother stepping in to set boundaries for her overtired, over stimulated, over worried, and under nourished child. “No, because you need your rest,” I often tell my own kids. “No, because your body can’t run on junk.” “No, because I know you, and love you so deeply. You are hurting, let me help you find healing and relief.”
Why Lent? Because it shifts my gaze from the earthly waves and storms threatening to drown me and on to Christ Who is above, beyond, within, encompassing all of it. When my context is eternity and resurrection, I am no longer bound by worldly rationales and limitations. I become free – free to show mercy, free to forgive, free to hope, free to embrace the mystery of dying in order to live, and free to pursue peace, regardless of my circumstances.
How grateful I am for this season of repentance, knowing pride, gluttony, and slothfulness only make me miserable. Yes, to rootedness. Yes, to joy. Yes, to love being the only answer necessary or relevant. “To be reminded of grace, is grace itself.”
May Great Lent be a balm for all of us!