Let me be clear, I am not some super Christian. Most days I love God and I believe God loves me. I understand my call in this world to love others the way God has loved me, simple in theory, harder in practice. For more than a decade now, I have observed Lent. I have received and administered the ashes a hundred times or more, I have read the 51 Psalm and I have abstained from some pleasure in attempt to walk closer to Christ in his own suffering. Before you think me too holy, know that most years I abstain from chocolate or sweets as my Lenten offering so as to kill two birds with one stone.
This year, I entered into Lent again, hoping, trusting that I would be nearer to my Lord and a few pounds lighter when all was said and done. I took the ashes, as many times before, from our local Catholic church and this year wore them into the strip club later that same evening and explained a dozen times over that I had not fallen and bruised my forehead, that I had actually bowed and allowed a priest to smear my brow with oil and ash. I have been going through the season, praying the prayers, reading of the saints that have gone before, Catherine of Sienna and Therese of Avila.
This week, however, the zeal gave way and I broke my Lenten vows. My twin nieces turned seven years old and I shared a zebra cake with them, a beloved colleague transitioned into a new chapter of ministry and I ate chocolate marshmallow cake topped with ice cream in his honor. By Wednesday, the weight of the world came crashing down and a new yogurt stand opened up in our town so I picked my mix-ins and later I shared cookies and iced lemon cakes with my book club as we commiserated together. I ended the week sharing in a girl’s night with my closest friends where pretty pink high heel cupcakes and chocolate, covered peanut butter pretzels were temptations beyond my resolve.
For some reason, this Lenten season, I find myself rushing toward celebration instead of suffering. Though the church calendar renders me out of step, there is something that feels so right about spray tans and spring break and an endless season of celebration.
Perhaps the reason is because I have long been in the dry arid wilderness searching for respite from my deep pain. Maybe I took up the sackcloth this same week one year ago when my mother fell, the universe shifted and I was thrust headlong into my own crisis of faith. On Easter Sunday last, I led the congregation in songs of hope and resurrection and I got in my car, drove 5 hours to my mother’s bedside to face sickness and death.
Sometimes our lives don’t seem to sync up with the Church calendar, the liturgical year; sometimes we don’t need a forced season of Lent because we understand all too well that we are only dust. Sometimes the way of suffering is the result of life in this crumbling world and we have endured thirst and hunger until we are ravenous for the feast. This year, though according to the calendar, Easter has not yet come, the “Crown Him with Many Crowns” not yet sung, I am counting every new blade of green grass, every verdant shoot budding from every tree limb, every mourning bird’s song as evidence of resurrection and I am thanking God that love has conquered death and that what has been lost will live again.