A friend asked me last week what I’ve learned from Lent this year. I didn’t really have an answer at the time, but I’ve been giving this some thought. What I’ve learned is that, as it turns out, I really suck at Lent.
I didn’t look forward to Lent. I knew what I had to give up, and I didn’t want to. I didn’t even give them up well – I have broken my fasts, over and over, each week. I have not substituted prayer or sought God as I should. I have unintentionally treated Lent like a series of New Year’s resolutions. I have done the whole thing wrong.
But there are some things I have learned, in spite of that. I’ve been confronted with everything from anxiety, pride, and anger to envy, jealousy, greed, and despair. I am plagued by selfishness, sloth, gluttony, and vanity, to name a few. Pick a sin; I’m an expert.
I’ve learned there are parts me on the inside that are dirty, ugly, and in a late stage of decay. There are things I want to hold on to — things I’d rather cultivate, or at least try to kill by my own power — and they need to go. I’ve learned that, given time and space, I will stare at those things, ponder them, poke at them, and not do anything productive about them. I’ll consider them a curiosity and be fascinated by them. But that will be it; I will do nothing. As the season went on, I discovered new and exciting ways in which I suffer from sin.
Rather than being excited about the hope that Easter morning brings, I found I’d rather sit in the Saturday of it. I didn't want to be called out of the darkness this year. That darkness was comfortable, and it was mine, and I wanted to stay there. I did not do good work. I failed, left and right. I didn't want the grace that Easter brings, because I didn't want to face the repentance necessary to accept that grace. I didn't want grace because, once again, I knew I didn't deserve it.
But that’s the thing about grace — we don’t deserve it. This Lent, I have learned fully again that it is Jesus who redeems all things, not me. I’ve learned that I am powerless to fix my own sin. Left to my own devices, I just want to work harder, flagellate myself more, refuse to forgive myself. Like Paul says in Romans, I am not doing what I want, but the very thing I hate.
I spoke with my program mentor Wednesday of last week, lamenting to her about what a horrible case of Lenten discipline I have this year. “Lent is about remembering,” she said.
I responded with the most intelligent thing I could think of in the moment: “Huh.” There was a silence, she said something I can’t recall, and I said, “Well, I am definitely remembering that I am in desperate need of a savior. I clearly can’t bootstrap myself out of this.”
Easter arrived anyway, as it does. I didn’t sleep well and finally got up at 4:45 a.m. to start prepping deviled eggs for Easter lunch, only to discover my son was up and playing video games in the living room. I was cranky from the lack of sleep and the looming to-do list for the day, and instead of offering him love and kindness, I yelled at him to turn off the TV and get to bed, and I made him cry.
On 5 a.m. on the day Our Lord rose from the grave, conquering death and delivering us from our sin, I couldn’t bring myself to not wallow in it from the get-go.
None of the eggs I had boiled would peel. I mutilated three trying, shredding bits of egg everywhere, and broke two right in half. I ended up throwing all three dozen eggs in the trash. “I know how they feel,” I thought. I felt as broken, as torn apart, as utterly worthless.
I considered not going to church. But we did anyway, as we do. And, like every week, we took communion. As I sat in my seat, holding my gluten-free cracker and my plastic thimble cup of wine, it struck me hard. Jesus broke the bread and said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” His body, broken for me, was made whole. This bread, broken for me, makes me whole.
In my brokenness, I ate the bread, and I drank the wine, and I remembered. And I was re-membered. Easter makes me whole.