Lenten Devotional - day 31
We’ve entered Holy Week; its terror, its love, its sorrow, and ultimately its sacrifice that is Good Friday, and its emptiness that is Holy Saturday. All of this must be gone through before Easter makes any sense to us. It is also the only way to complete Lent.
I’ve tried to sell you on the idea that Lent is about adding, it’s about a springtime of our souls… I’ve tried to make Lent palatable. Because, for most people it simply isn’t. But maybe I’ve sold Lent short. It’s hard. I just so desperately want people to try to let their lives go, their egos go, their pride go…. That’s not quite true, I’m projecting. I so desperately want to let my life, my ego, and my pride go that maybe I try to make Lent sound easy so others try it with me.
Every year I get to this week. I’ve done some good these last 38 days. I’ve done some bad. I’m a mixed bag. And, the truth that I am a mixed bag disquiets my soul. My ego wants to be perfect, my pride wishes for an unblemished soul, and my desires are at war within me.
Then I get to this week again. This week where I am invited to die. To die to my desire for perfection, an unblemished soul, and even the wars within me. To die to myself, to sacrifice what I call myself, so that I may be what God knows me to be.
I must sacrifice my attachments to this material world, while nevertheless loving the world. How does one even do that? How did Jesus do that? And, there is the Christian answer that I can’t do that, that no one can, but by God all things are possible.
This afternoon Melinda and I went to a birthday party for someone turning 80. We sat with some people we didn’t know, but some I’d met before. One I’d met at the church’s trunk-or-treat for the community. I sat down and she said, “I bet you don’t remember me.” I told her I remember her at the trunk-or-treat, I remember she said to me she doesn’t like organized religion, and I remember telling her that I don’t either.
She was truly surprised I remembered her at all, but she told me something I don’t remember. She told me that I said her smile made my day better, and she told me what that meant to her. I would never have guessed.
Another person got up and came to me after I announced we were leaving. She told me that we’d met at the Easter Carnival at the church last year. She was with a little boy who wasn’t her grandchild. She took care of him when he was in the court system. She told me I came up to them and greeted her warmly then got down and talked to the little boy, “for quite a while.”
Apparently, I asked him some questions, told him he was amazing or something like that (I suspect I asked him what it was like to be so awesome). When I left them, he asked her who I was. She told him she thought I was the pastor, but he didn’t know what that meant so she said I was like the boss. The little boy told her, “But he was so nice to me, I thought bosses were mean.”
Sometimes I just think I’m a mess. Someone who can’t get Lent right. Someone who never makes the same mistake twice, but at least a thousand times. Someone who doesn’t die to myself over and over and over and over… but I tried. Sometimes I’ve changed for the better; sometimes for the worse.
When we were in college neither of us was allowed to talk to the cops when they came to break up our parties. People figured we’d only make things worse. Sometimes I still think I only make things worse. But then strangers tell me I acted in such a way that it made a difference to them, and I don’t remember it at all.
How is that possible? All things are possible with God, I guess. We die a little bit this week, or we don’t, but maybe that we tried is enough. It’s like unlocking the door and turning the nob, and then God pushes in a little. It’s grace, and I’ll never understand it, but this week is about sacrifice and grace, and somehow or another they go together. All I know is this is a Holy Week, and it changes us if we dare journey it.