In this Lenten season, we tend to focus on wilderness and darkness. We are told to look at our selves honestly, compelled to confront our wrongs and name our sins. The season begins in dust, with the faint sign of the cross made of oil and ash. And as we sit in the dark, forboding wilderness, wrought with the tempations around us, we strain to see the light that we are promised. We try hard to see even a small glimmer of the light that our faith tells us is up ahead. We are told to let go, to relinquish the thinngs that we hold. But how can we? This season is too hard, too dangerous, too foreboding. And so we stay in the darkness for now, content to wallow in our guilt and be comforted by our despair, hiding our shame from the world. And we go on. Someday the Light will come.
I don’t think we get it. Surely this God of light and life does not want us to wallow here. I mean, anyone that even knows the definition of psychology knows that healing starts with diagnosing our ills, confronting our demons, and naming our sins. In fact, in her book Speaking of Sin, Barbara Brown Taylor contends that sin, that thing that we try to hide away from everyone, is our only hope, because the recognition that something is wrong is the first step toward setting it right again. She says that “there is no help for those who admit no need of help. There is no repair for those who insist that nothing is broken, and there is no hope of transformation for a world whose inhabitants accept that it is sadly but irreversibly wrecked.” But most of us are not comfortable facing ourselves that honestly and so we become content with wallowing in the darkness. We get stuck in cycles of guilt and self-denial and become well-versed in closing our eyes to our own shortcomings and those of our society. We somehow convince ourselves and cherish the idea that we live in a classless, equal-opportunity society where everyone has the same chance. We are taught to save face and tuck our blemishes and sins away so that no one will see.
I don’t think Lent is meant to be a season of wallowing. No where is it written or implied that this is a season that shows us the way around the cross. (If that was the case, then why didn’t God somehow pluck Jesus off the cross in the nick of time? But the story wouldn’t be the same. It would be one of avoiding death, rather than recreating it into life. It would be a fairy tale, rather than a vision of our eternity.) Rather, Lent is a season of journeying to the cross, of letting go of all those things that impede our vision of the Light, and laying them down and going beyond them as they, too, are recreated into Life. In that way, it is a season not of wallowing in the darkness but one of yielding to the Light. The Light is there, waiting. But we have to yield to it. We can no longer be content to sit here in the darkness, surrounded by those things we hide, and wait for the light to come. That’s not the way it works. We have to let go. We have to let go of our sins, our despair, and our view that we are not ready yet or not “there” yet, of the notion that we have to somehow prepare ourselves a little bit more. The Light is not going to magically move in and replace the darkness. We have to yield to the Light that is already there. We have to name what impedes our journey and let it go. And when we let go of the hopelessness that we’ve created, we will finally see the Hope that is already there. I don’t know about you, but I have some work to do!
Grace and Peace on this Lenten Journey,