A Lenten day

Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash

It was a Monday. Maybe the Monday-ist of Mondays. I had spent the morning on Zoom with a leadership team in our presbytery. We were spinning wheels about the direction of a program: Should we continue? Where was new life? What do our churches need? What was God calling us to do? What comes next?! We didn’t know. We acknowledged we didn’t know. So, we did the most Presbyterian of things: we scheduled another committee meeting and we covenanted to pray for direction and discernment.

Monday afternoon I grabbed lunch and headed out to make a few pastoral visits. As I approached the first nursing care center, I prayed and breathed as I prepared for the next difficult meeting: saying goodbye. One of my congregants was reaching the end of her journey here. She was moving to an assisted living home in another state near family. I was coming to say goodbye on behalf of my congregation who hadn’t been able to visit because of COVID restrictions. We celebrated communion together, shared stories, took a selfie, prayed together, and said a tearful goodbye. We spent time marveling at the new path God had set before her. We brought our whole, broken beautiful selves before God.

I got back into my car and drove to the next nursing care center. I prayed and breathed as I prepared for the next difficult meeting: saying goodbye. One of my congregants was reaching the end of her journey here on earth. Having lived this life in faith, she was ready for her journey into eternal life. She grasped my hand tight, still knowing who I was. We shared her final communion on this side of eternity and prayed for God to ease her pain as she entered into God’s heavenly kingdom. We brought our whole, broken beautiful selves before God.

It was Monday — the day after the Lord’s Day when all feels possible, yet mysterious. It was a Lent-like day. It was a day when we brought our full selves before God without abandon. It was a day when we admitted we didn’t know exactly what would happen next. It was a day when we leaned into “the already not yet.” It was a day when we trusted that even if we didn’t have the answers, God would. It was a day of loss and love, of grief and gratefulness, of confusion and celebration. It was a day that reminded us of God’s mysterious, wondrous workings in the world.

These are the kinds of days we lean into during the 40-day Lenten season when we mirror Christ’s 40-day journey in the wilderness. Every year, we begin this journey of return, repentance, and renewal by marking ourselves with ashes to remember that “we are dust and to dust we will return.” Yet, that reminder of our own mortality does not rest there; it is coupled with the great mystery of new life and resurrection that is promised on the other side of Lent through our Lord Jesus Christ.

In Lent, we walk that line between our old life and the new life to come, between our past and our future, between who we’ve been and who we will become, between asking questions and receiving answers. Lent is an opportunity to bring our whole, broken, and beautiful selves before God – no matter what that self looks like.

We’ve all had “those” kinds of days, where everything in life seems to happen at once. Difficult as they are, I wonder if they aren’t also opportunity days — to see God at work right in our midst, bringing us to new life, no matter what that life might look like.

This Lent, I plan to hold onto the mystery of not knowing, all the while trusting that God is up to something new. I may not know exactly where God is leading us next, but I am thankful for the time to pray, reflect, and hope in the meantime. I know that new life is just around the corner, and I can’t wait to see what God will do next.