Why Practice Lent? Because Everything Is Broken
By Lenora Rand
Ok, maybe not everything…
But, yeah, a lot of stuff is broken. An awful lot.
Big stuff. Little stuff. Little stuff that feels like big stuff.
Take my foot, for example. One day this week, while I wasn't doing anything, suddenly my foot started hurting. Like really hurting. Like hard-to-walk-on-it hurting. And who knows why, because did I mention, this started while I was sitting in my chair, looking at my computer? I was not running a marathon or working on a construction project or even simply walking down the street. I was sitting in a chair. And just like that, my foot broke.
I'm going to have to see a doctor. Thank God I can afford to see a doctor, and have a doctor to see, because of course, so many people in the world don't have that. Because…broken.
This is the song I've got on repeat today: Everything Is Broken, a Dylan song, performed by the amazing Bettye LaVette.
And, speaking of broken…I don't know about you, but it's all been almost too much to take recently. Every day on the news, there's more horrible stuff happening that seems beyond belief. It breaks my heart. If I started making a list, I think I could write forever. So I won't. And I'm sure you've got your own list, anyway.
Ok, maybe I'll just list a couple things:
The United Methodists somehow deciding at their recent General Conference that exclusion of LGBTQ+ folks was a plausible answer to the question: "What Would Jesus Do?"
Hearing about more lies from our President.
Being on the brink of nuclear annihilation.
The 25 bullets fired into the body of Willie McCoy, a 20-year-old black man shot by police, in a Taco Bell parking lot on February 9th.
How the real national emergency is climate change, but that's pretty much being ignored.
And then, of course, there are people I know dealing with so much personal stuff—death and illness and just general life disappointments (which are so painful at times, these things feel like they will kill you…or at the very least drive you to your favorite addictions. Yes, I almost bought the 12-pack of Cinnamon Sugar Pop Tarts this week, I'm not gonna lie.).
I just want to cry most mornings, but instead I barrel on through, try to keep up with work and life and an almost 1-year-old kitten who won't stop scratching on my favorite chair and try not to think too much about the big stuff, you know? I sometimes feel like I'm holding it all together with that super bargain plastic tape you buy on a whim at the grocery store because how bad can it be…and then you find out.
I sometimes feel like I'm holding it all together with that super bargain plastic tape you buy on a whim at the grocery store because how bad can it be…and then you find out.
And yeah, I know we all need to keep putting one foot in front of the other…doing what we need to do to get through our days…and yes, sometimes that includes shouting about things we see that are unjust and calling our Congress people or signing petitions and sharing our feelings and opinions all about everything on social media.
And maybe that will help mend the brokenness all around us. It's not nothing, that's for sure.
But sometimes I think I need more than that.
I think I might need Lent.
Really Lenora, that's what you're thinking? Lent?!
Yeah. Strange as it may sound…Lent.
Now, you may be one of those people for whom Lent is kind of a "Duh…of course, yeah…" Something you look forward to as a time for reflection and spiritual renewal. Blessings upon you, if that's so.
Lent hasn't always been that for me. I didn't grow up practicing Lent, and for a long time it seemed like something weird that only certain religious types engaged in (i.e. not someone who sucks as much at being spiritual as I do) which seemed to involve eating more fish and giving up chocolate or wine or Facebook or the F-word for 40 days, and possibly in the process coming out of it with lots more overall holiness points.
And I also know for some of my friends, Lent's been one of those practices they tossed out when they walked out the doors of whatever church hurt them or rejected them for who they are, who they love, what they believe or can't believe, or for not toeing the party line in some way or another. (And by the way, I'm deeply, deeply sorry if that happened to you.)
…what I've come to understand is that the ancient practice of Lent can be an invitation to ask who we are, and what really matters, a time to consider how we could live more fully and wholly on this earth, and to ask some hard questions of God, too.
But what I've come to understand recently is that the ancient practice of Lent can be an invitation to ask who we are, and what really matters, a time to consider how we could live more fully and wholly on this earth, and to ask some hard questions of God, too. It can be an invitation to give ourselves a little space, even if it's simply 15 minutes a day, to stop and breathe, to be present for ourselves, and possibly even connect with that big cosmic Love that I so want to believe in, and that Grace that holds us and this world all together, somehow, someway.
Lent can be a practice that's less about giving things up and more about giving us space to take in. More awareness…more peace…more connectedness. More compassion for ourselves and for this aching little world we all share. Possibly even space to take in God's unrelenting forgiveness and mercy and acceptance of us, just as we are.
Who knows, it might even help us do a little self-examination and see our own part in the brokenness around us. It might be a practice that can help us live with more compassion and understanding and kindness in the middle of this world of horribleness we seem to find ourselves in these days. And with more honesty and fearlessness in the midst of the hard personal stuff we humans each have to deal with on a daily basis—you know, the relationships that are so very hard, work that drains us, dreams that have died, abuse that's left big bucket-loads of pain inside us.
So that's the kind Lent I have decided to sign on for this year.
Maybe you will want to join me. Maybe it won't fix everything that's broken.
On the other hand, who knows, it might just change a few small things.
Which would be something.
Lenora is a writer, liturgy creator, and one of the founders of The Plural Guild, a collective crafting music, prayers, visual art & liturgy for people who want to worship in ways that more deeply reflect a peaceful, just and open expression of faith. She is the lyricist for the progressive Christian worship band, The Many, as well as the co-founder and creative director for a branding consultancy called SmallGood, which is helping all kinds of businesses and nonprofits committed to making a positive impact in the world "grow their good." She also blogs occasionally about trying to be more spiritual when you're not very good at it on her Chicago-Tribune-hosted blog, Spiritual Suckitude, where this article first appeared.
Want to walk through Lent Another Way?
Sign up for the e-course Lenora created for Lent 2019, along with poet and writing coach cin salach and womanist, contemplative activist Micky ScottBey Jones, the Justice Doula. When you sign up for this self-guided practice for creative reflection, you'll get a short email each of the 40-some days of Lent. With something inspiring to read and a writing prompt, it's designed to be an eye/mind/soul-opening way to move through Lent, without shoulds or shame.