Lent is a time of reflection. I’d like to call it “the honest time.” The time when all the walls of our heart come down. Walls that are, in some respect like those tire shredders that pop up out of the pavement at the gate of a parking garage to keep people from fleeing without paying. Prickly, fearful, overly cautious, no-risk conservatism.
Our avoidance protects us from the nakedness of honesty. We don’t have to confront the things that ultimately cause us to be wounded and frightened. Because of our walls we don’t have to do the things that will bring us healing and wholeness. Quoting Beaumont, Joan Chittister writes that “Calamity is the human’s true touchstone.”
Calamity, in other words, lets loose the fire that tries the gold, the wind that tests the tree, the water that sweeps away everything in life that is not anchored, not grounded, not imbedded in the firmament of our souls. Without calamity what shall we ever be and how shall we ever know it?”
Our world does not like the path of honesty and vulnerability – “calamity” as Chittister writes. So, we cover it up and pave it over with distraction, anesthesia, denial, and sheer power. But we never gain insight or receive healing by avoiding or distraction.
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave his listeners the means, which Chittister calls “calamity” to face the things that keep us wounded and ill. He begins with blessing “those who mourn.” This mourning is caused by facing honestly the things that distort our lives. This requires bravery and determination.
This is followed by being what Jesus calls “meek.” Meekness, in this case, is not Casper Milquetoast. It is, rather, willingly setting aside the strategies that we have used for protection in the past. This is willingly submitting one’s life to God.
This leaves a vacuum, no longer filled with all the stratagems of this life. Hunger-pains for authenticity, grace, and healing set in, which God and only God can fill. One is reminded of Jesus’ hunger in the wilderness during which he was tempted to fill it with stones-made-bread. Jesus reminded the tempter that one does not live by bread alone.
Lent gives opportunity for the distraction and denial of our lives to be blown away by the wind of God’s Spirit. Making room for God to fill us.
Father, lead us into the wilderness with Christ. Let us learn the silent focus that only such solitude can bring us. Sweep away the impurities of our lives. Purify us with your fire. In Jesus’ name, Amen.