It is Ash Wednesday, and Lent begins. There were many Lents when I was away from church, and did nothing – barely noting the season. When I returned, it was in a gung-ho fashion – excessively abstemious, but frequently failing and overdoing the mea culpas. What a pity that I lacked any insight about mercy, compassion, or the reconciliation that comes from metanoia.
That brings me to the present moment, a place that offers a different point of view. On my heart today is that Lent is a journey that is simultaneously about staying and about going. We are called to go to the desert, that is the going part. The staying? Well, that is often the hardest part, staying in those places of challenge, which paradoxically can only be found when we go out into the desert. We must go out and then we must stay put. Staying and going; no wonder we want to avoid all of this church-y, Lent-y, metanoia-y Jesus stuff – it is annoying and bothersome. Can’t we go comfort ourselves with things like shopping, work, sex, and mindless binge watching?
That’s the thing – we do have free will, so we can do whatever we want. However, in the end we have to ask ourselves – what *do* we want to do? Trust me, there are few greater narcotics for me than binge watching or worse yet, work. Yes, you heard me correctly, work. It is the great American drug, we work a lot, which is good… right, right? Um, not always. Anyway, I could ignore my boundary issues around how much I work, I could start binge watching TV nonstop , and any number of other things. Yup – God lets me do that. God lets all of us do whatever we want.
But, the alternative is to answer that nagging tug inside and reply to the invitation to slow down, go forth, see what is, and stay put with the many uncomfortable elements of our lives. God’s invitation to go and to stay is ready to be responded to today on Ash Wednesday.
Staying and going, that will be the uncomfortable theme of my Lent. Will you join me on the journey? Will you walk with me and pray with me as we head out into the desert this Lent?
God sent out the invite, let’s respond together, and see where Lent takes us this year. Staying and going, finding our way deep into the heart of God.