A Love Letter to Lent

Dear Lent,

Every year, I feel like I fail you. You are 40 days (plus 6 Sundays) for me to really restart my faith. This year, in particular, I feel like I didn’t do enough. I should have tried harder. Prayed more. Given up something more challenging. I’m just not as different now as I hoped I’d be. And yet, I had my priest encourage me to look at what God has done this Lent, not what I’ve done. When I look at you that way, I see how beautiful and fruitful and unexpected you have truly been this year.

Today is Holy Saturday. You are drawing to a close. Tonight and tomorrow we will stand in our churches and proclaim an earth-shattering truth that we’ve heard so many times, it doesn’t shake us. We’ve gotten used to it. But it is still true and it is still utterly amazing. Christ is risen.

I remember, probably a decade ago, I came to a realization during Holy Week that Jesus actually died. Maybe it was seeing the bodies of my uncle and great-grandmother at their funerals that convinced me how astonishing that was. That Jesus was really and truly dead. His soul left and what was taken down from the cross and laid in the tomb was nothing more than a body. This realization felt stupid; duh, Clare, you’ve heard this at every single Mass you’ve ever been to in your life. But God assured me it wasn’t stupid. It was important. It was good. What would the Crucifixion be worth if Jesus had just been kidding?

Last night for Good Friday, I watched Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ for the first time. It’s hard to explain how powerful that was for me, but I’ll try to put it this way: As I watched Jesus being scourged nearly to death, suffering unimaginably before he’d even taken up His cross, the thought that kept going through my head was, “I don’t feel worth this.” And what God continually responded to me with was, “This is how much I love you. This is how much you are worth.” Whether or not I believed it or felt worthy of it, I knew it was true.

As I type this, I’m listening to ‘Pieces’ by Amanda Cook on repeat. I think this song captures what Jesus was expressing with every step, every drop of blood of His Passion. He gave Himself fully, completely, holding nothing back – for me. That ‘for me’ statement is true for all of us. For me, as though I were the only one in the whole world. Jesus would have gone up on that cross and died the definition of an excruciating death if I was the only sinner in existence. He would have gone the whole nine yards whether or not I ever loved Him back – whether or not I even believed in Him.

Unreserved, unrestrained, your love is wild Your love is wild for me
It isn’t shy, it’s unashamed, your love is proud to be seen with me
You don’t give your heart in pieces, you don’t hide yourself to tease us
Uncontrolled, uncontained, you love is a fire
Burning bright for me
It’s not just a spark, it’s not just a flame your love is a light
That all the world will see
You don’t give your heart in pieces, you don’t hide yourself to tease us
Your love’s not fractured, it’s not a troubled mind
It isn’t anxious
It’s not the restless kind
Your love’s not passive
Its never disengaged
It’s always present
It hangs on every word we say
Love keeps it promises
It keeps its word
It honors what’s sacred
Cause its vows are good
Your love’s not broken
It’s not insecure
Your love’s not selfish
You love is pure
You don’t give your heart in pieces, you don’t hide yourself to tease us 

You have been a very good Lent, whether or not I feel it. Throughout these 46 days, God shook me down to my deepest wound, challenged me, grew me and blessed me beyond anything I could ever imagine.

So, thank you. I’ll see you again next year.

Love,

Clare

 

More like this:

A Love Letter to Anxiety

A Love Letter to Advent

A Love Letter to God

 

A Love Letter to Anxiety

Dear Anxiety,

We go way back. I didn’t know your name for a long time and I don’t remember exactly when we met, but I do recall when I was five or six, having that chronic fear of being lost, being locked in rooms or being locked out of the house. You stole a lot of fun and joy out of my childhood.

I got to know you better when I was twelve years old and became convinced that my chronic headaches had to mean I had a brain tumor. I still didn’t know your name, so every time you showed up, I just assumed you were a symptom of whatever was killing me. Finally, I found out that I needed glasses, and when my vision was corrected my headaches went away. But you stuck around in the form of that crippling fear of death, which took years to ease off.

And then, December 2014. That was your big breakout, wasn’t it? I was sitting on my bed and thought I was going insane from the all the thoughts and fears spinning around in my head. I felt so physically ill, I wondered if I’d caught a stomach bug. I grieved a relationship that wasn’t even over yet because you had me so, so, scared. I fought with you for six more months, and finally, I was able to get past you and make the decision I needed. With nothing I could love and lose to torment me over, you faded into the shadows.

But you’re still here. You got a good grip on my heart that night in 2014, and now it’s easier for you to sneak back up on me. (Kind of like heat exhaustion.) You keep flaring up whenever I have to do something new, whenever I fly on a plane, whenever things get too crazy at work, whenever I’m alone for too long, whenever I drink too much caffeine, whenever I perceive something wrong with someone, and whenever I care about something a lot. Could you stop doing that?

At the end of the day, you aren’t me. I believed that lie for a long time. But you’re not. You’re something that happens to me. I know you come from some weird survival instinct, this need in me to protect myself from getting hurt, to weigh the risk vs. reward before doing anything. I’m learning that it’s not my job to protect myself from everything because that’s impossible. At some point, after I’ve thought things through and done my best, I have to trust God enough to let my future be uncertain. 

You and I are probably going to spend the rest of my life together in some capacity. And that’s okay. I won’t live my life afraid of you. That being said, you better believe I’m going to work every single day to be stronger and smarter than you. My life is so much better when you’re in your proper place: keeping me from jumping off of bridges and away from possibly-rabid cats.

I’m choosing not to be afraid of you. Even when you jump me and pin me to the floor, sitting on top of my chest and asking me a million questions, I’m trying to choose not to be afraid of you. You drive me straight into the Garden with my God who was so anxious, He was sweating blood. He knows you better than I do, and you didn’t stop Him. You won’t stop me, either. 

As I wrote in my journal back on January 21st: “This is just anxiety. It’s just something that is happening to you. It will go away, and when it does, you will still be here. Don’t be afraid.”

Love,

Clare