As the light fades from Christmas and the Epiphany season we enter soon into Lent. The lights of seasonal joy can easily seem to fade into a gloom of sin and repentance when in fact there is nothing gloomy about sin unless one’s image of God is warped into that of an angry, vengeful, cranky God.
We do not run, arms waving and lips laughing into Lent like we do into Christmas or even Advent’s quiet spiritual sobriety.
I suppose Lent can be a time of grief and guilt if we let it. But I am wondering what I am doing BEFORE Lent to prepare for it to be a productive season, and not simply a navel-gazing shame-based season. What apologies do I need to make? In my Rule of Life I choose two people in Advent and Lent to whom I need to make a face-to-face apology. It is hard work. It takes planning. It takes courage. But it keeps my life as clean as I can muster.
The bright reflection of light in diamonds is not just about the light. Nor is it just about the color refraction. Nor is it about the magic of the cutter’s skills or the setter’s craft or the polisher’s stone. It is also about wiping off the mud and gore which splashes onto our life as we live it.
These days before Lent, my work is to prepare for Lent so that it can prepare me for Holy Week and so that it can, in turn prepare me for the Great Vigil and its ramifications.
Each Lent I keep a small bowl of chocolate nearby my meditation station. It reminds me to let go of the drama of lent and embrace its playfulness and its effectiveness. If we want our life to sparkle, examining our diamonds for flaws may be less effective than simply rinsing off the goo which has splashed up from the roads we have travelled.
What if Jesus’ invitation in Lent is to grab a handful of chocolate and then take a long shower? What if we make our lives cleaned off, rather than making them infused in shame?