Jumping Into Lent

Full disclosure, I don’t really get Lent. Perhaps it comes from being raised in the Church of Christ where there were no holy days other than the Lord’s Day. The communion song, “This we do each Lord’s day, as Christ has said…” reverberates in my brain as I write. We didn’t follow the church calendar, celebrating Christmas and Easter very minimally at home, my parents’ appeasement to their children but don’t tell anyone at church. Or perhaps it’s my Enneagram Seven-ness: if you can avoid pain, you should avoid pain. Reading about the Crucifixion and participating in Lenten activities never really caught on with me. Writing about it is a stretch.

At a dinner party during the season, several people declined certain indulgent foods or beverages due to Lent. It got me thinking. First, I didn’t even know it was Lent. Second, I wondered if there was something wrong with my Christian-ness, my theology, with me. Why was I always so different, so other from people I knew and respected? Why was I always standing a little outside the mainstream rules and procedures?

I started thinking about what the cross meant. Which got me thinking a lot about grace and how I respond to mistakes. Last week, on a mountaintop in the dark, I made some mistakes that could have been life threatening. It was a scary situation. We all made it down alive and well, but the errors in judgment stayed with me. I found myself wanting to confess to everyone, but fearing the consequences, the punishment, the restrictions that might ensue, I kept the confession silent.

While I prayed on the mountain and on the way down, and shouted a final exclamation of gratitude at the bottom, I had pretty much ignored God after that. I didn’t want the lecture. As my backpack got heavier and heavier that night, so did this burden of guilt and responsibility.

About to shatter under the weight, I went to my friend and told her I needed to confess. I needed accountability. She listened to my whole, ugly story. I waited for judgement. Our Fathers and Hail Marys perhaps. Sacrifice a bull. Confess your sins in front of the congregation and be shunned. Carry a cross. Something.

And where two or more are gathered, I knew God was listening in. Of course, He knew. Of course. My hands instinctively slid to my backside to await the spanking.

You readers of the Lenten series know what came next. You know my friend and have experienced her grace. You know Jesus and have experienced His grace. The big arms-stretched-wide embrace of Love. Come home.

As I write, I cannot think of one time when I confessed to God and received anything but open arms. Not one time. I can tell you hundreds of times I delayed going to God because I expected punishment. And thousands of times I have judged others and invoked or wished harsh consequences on them. Yet my Lord, never once, has done the same to me. Lessons to learn, sure. Growth to be had, yes. Natural consequences, sometimes, but less than you’d predict. Always, open arms. Come home.

I’m thinking I might jump into this whole Lent thing and try giving up this delicacy of judgement. Focus on the healthy diet of love and forgiveness. Live in the gift. Maybe try it out after Lent too. After Easter, until Christmas, and again. Still.

Last night I went to a performance by Rona Yellowrobe, a Native American Flute player, singer, and storyteller, and her guitar playing partner, Bruce Witham. You can imagine how the two instruments go together nicely. Native American flute players do not use music or study notes. The music comes from the heart. Players may learn songs and repeat them, but the music is not written down, and can change as the spirit moves. It was beautiful. Bruce also plays the cello. Cello music is defined, written down, procedural. It comes from a composer—until Rona and Bruce get together, then the experience is magical.

To add to the glory of the evening, an accomplished harmonica player, Eric Brown, joined the duo. Bruce switched to blues guitar, and flute, harmonica, and guitar jammed like there was no tomorrow. There was only now. Musical mindfulness. Hallelujah and Amen. Turns out, Eric had never met either Rona or Bruce before stepping to the stage. Three distinct, disconnected instruments and musicians transfixing their audience with joy, a little outside mainstream rules and procedures.

And then the gift. The audience was invited to join in with singing the chorus of the song, “Get Together.” Separate instruments, voices, lives, beliefs, all praising, pleading together. The spontaneous and the designed. The weight and the grace. The Cross and the Resurrection.

Come on, people now

Smile on your brother

Everybody get together

Try to love one another right now.

Right now.

Right now.

—by Sandy Shipman
Selah Community

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