Regardless of where you have been on your Lenten journey. Regardless
of whether you are still adrift in the wilderness, or have shaken the desert
dust off your feet and moved on. Regardless of what repentance, fasting, amendment
of life you have left undone…it is finished.
We have come to the end. End of the road. End of the line. End
of the story. Wherever you have been for the past forty days, or forty weeks,
or forty years. Wherever you have been faithful and faithless. Wherever you
have been prideful, deceitful, arrogant. Grateful, hopeful, compassionate…it is
Whatever has been done is done. Whatever has been left
undone is left undone.
This is the time, and this is the place, to gather up all
the messy pieces of your life, your self, your soul.To collect all the stones and insults and
desperation, all the insights and dreams and accomplishments you have picked up
along the way. To assemble all the hurts, the slights, the disappointments, the
balms, kindnesses, and encouragements you have given or received and then let
it all slip through your fingers and fall away like grains of sand into the
Let everything escape your grasp. Empty your arms and hands
and heart.Pour it all out at the foot
of the cross.All of who you are, or
were, or were meant to be. Let this be your final offering and concluding act.
Because when all is said and done, there is nothing left but
to lay ourselves at the foot of the cross.There is no place left to go, nothing left to do.
Even for Jesus.
Even for the one who loved well, fed the five thousand, gave
sight to the blind, and brought Lazarus back to life…it is finished.
The stress, the jeering, the pain.The public ministry and private conversation.The teaching of crowds, the finding of the
lost, the healing of the hurt.The
betrayal by Judas.The denial of Peter.
The shattered hope of Mary. It is finished.
Undone. Unraveled. Unmade. Beyond anxiety. Beyond
consequence. Beyond resignation. Nothing left to grasp. Nothing to be done. All
slips through unstrung fingers.
Fall at the foot of the cross with empty hands. Empty heart.
An empty husk. Then follow the sweet release of letting it all escape your
grasp.When we are completely spent, God
Wednesday in the Fifth Week of Lent My eyes are open in the night watches,
that I may meditate upon your promise. Psalm 119: 148
I wake before the alarm sounds and stretch into the morning. Except it isn’t morning. I look at the clock and realize I have awoken hours before it is time to get up. Why am I awake?
I take a brief inventory. I have not been woken by a vivid dream, or worries about the day. I am not unwell. I am simply awake.
When I was a child, my mother taught me that waking in the middle of the night is a good time to pray. Somewhere along the way I learned a traditional Jesus prayer that I use in the dark of the night, casting it like a net to recapture calm and peace and sleep.
But in this moment, I am not anxious about the loss of sleep. Rather, I reach to God in prayer as the best way to make use of my wakefulness. This dark-of-the-night moment is a gift; my watchfulness affords me connection to the Holy One and the chance to weave the strands of hope and trust more securely into the fabric of my life.
My conversation with customer support begins quite
pleasantly. I give my name, explain the problem, and the voice on the other end
of the line exudes confidence. Then we get to the questions: What phone number
is associated with this account? What email address?
I cannot answer. It has been years since I opened the
account, and as I offer one possible but incorrect response after another my
frustration begins to mount. I know the account number, the login for the
website, and my online password. But none of these will get me the help I need.
And all at once I am no longer calm or pleasant. It is only
after the harsh and impatient words are out of my mouth that I remember to whom
I am speaking. A person. A person who is doing his job.An individual who has been nothing but
courteous to me. Someone who must answer the phone all day long, knowing that
on the other end of the line will be exasperated people wanting him is to fix a
problem that is not of his making.
I take a deep breath and apologize
for my rudeness. And as the problem is solved, I thank him. I wish him a good
day and hope he has no more cranky customers. And then I offer a prayer of
contrition to God for my own deceitful tongue and need to cast blame. Perhaps
my penance could be to be to cast kindness and respect instead.
I remove my earrings and place them in the velvet lined cloth pouch and zip it closed. I don’t remember where the pouch came from, but someone gave it to me. For years I have used it as the place I keep my pearl earrings. I do remember where the earrings came from. They were my grandmother’s and I always think of her when I wear them.
As I put the pouch away, I realize I act with almost ritual attention. The earrings are precious to me, and I treat them with care, respect, and even a kind of reverence.
There are days I would like to place my soul in a soft, velvet lined pouch for safekeeping. Days when my spirit feels fragile and in need of protection. Times when I yearn to be treated with extra care.
And I recognize the answer for this yearning. I can remember that I am precious, worth redeeming in God’s sight. I can place myself in God’s hands, which must be soft and safe and strong beyond compare.
O God, you know my foolishness, and my faults are not hidden from you. Psalm 69:6
I hear the rumble of the truck as it pulls up to my house early in the morning. I am caught up short; did anyone remember to set the trash out last night for collection? Many mornings I have run out into the cold wearing slippers to drag the cans to the corner. And the truth is that on some mornings the good-hearted workers have come to the side of the house to collect the bins we failed to put out.
It is so convenient. Throw the trash, or anything I don’t want, or don’t want to deal with, into a container, set it on the curb, and know it will be taken away.
If only it were so easy to get rid of my faults. But perhaps it is not so foolish to make a weekly collection of my errors and transgressions, to gather them up, and set them out to be taken away. Not because I can become faultless, but so that I can make room in my heart for more of God. Who knows me so well and loves me nevertheless.