Intensity in Lent
February 22, 2018, 3:36 PM

Lent is being pretty intense for me – I signed up for not one, not two, but three daily meditation emails from various sources, and putting them next to each other can make my brain hurt, just a bit. 

One might be focused on the cross, another on justice, and the third on hope.  On top of that, I’m reading Howard Thurman, and this week’s reading is on deception; last week’s was about fear

Both fear and deception are tools that help the oppressed survive.  Fear alerts one to danger; deception can avert an attack.  If that were all they did, that would be, if not desirable, at least understandable. 

At a deeper level, though, both can destroy from within.  If one is treated as “less than,” something very dangerous can occur.  One might begin to feel “less than,” and to believe one actually is “less than.” Unworthy, un-love-able, un-valued.  Our sense of self depends on perceiving ourselves as just the opposite of these things. 

If we believe we are worthy, loved, and valued, we can withstand so much more trial and tribulation than anyone can throw at us.  It’s not that God doesn’t send us more than we can handle, as some say; it’s that God simply isn’t sending that stuff.  Life is filled with hard times, with pain, with loss, and with suffering; this is all true.  But God is the one who walks with us through all of it. 

That doesn’t mean God will “fix it,” either.  Wouldn’t that be great?  But, sadly, no, that’s not how it works.  We have to rely on ourselves to get up, and we should be able to rely on others to lend a hand, and we can always rely on God to love us.  That’s what God does.

When we are filled up with a sense of God’s love and we trust that truth, we find the strength to get up, we find the wherewithal to help others, and we find the faith to know that, no matter how things turn out right here and now, God desires our ultimate good, even if we can’t figure out what that means.

Having that faith gives us courage to face those things and people that frighten us; and having that faith gives us courage to speak the truth when no one seems to want to hear it.  Having that faith means we are never going to be “less than” again.

I hear from people who are struggling – with bad health, with powerful people who dismiss and blame, with economic setbacks – so many times.  I frequently can’t fix their situations; sometimes all I can do is listen, hold a hand, offer a prayer, and, occasionally, suggest a new course of action or ask others to lean in and help out.  Offering moral support (or “thoughts and prayers”) seems so ineffectual – and sometimes it may well be, particularly if that’s all one does.  I find what really matters is the relationship between others and myself.  If people feel like they’ve been heard, and understood, it helps.

And if I can provide more than moral support; even a small monetary contribution to help with a utility bill, for example, it can mean the world.  Or sitting in on a meeting with a doctor, or sending a quick text, or most anything that we can do for another person carries a message beyond the immediate exchange: It says, “You exist, I see you, I love you, and God loves you.”

Oh, and by the way, dear people of and around Christ Church:  You definitely exist; I do see you; I love you to the moon and back, and God loves you even more!

May you have a blessed Lent!