Learn more about who we are by following our blog, written by our pastor, preacher, and chief evangelist. Engage in the everyday sacred as Abby writes about the deep and ordinary all at once.
What I learned on vacation is that confronting our brokenness doesn’t have to be awful (even if it is hard). Instead, if we remember the God who invites us to such self-examination loves us better than we love ourselves, than the 40 days of Lent can be a vacation from the rest of the world.
Lent is coming. What a downer.
Yes, once again, a supposed ordained minister is saying highly irreverent things. (You should read my blog on atonement.)
Let me try again: Oh boy, Lent is coming! I love Lent! I love examining all the broken pieces of my life and coming to terms with the in-your-face reality that I suck at following Jesus. I also love giving things up! I love repentance! I can’t wait! Welcome Lent!
Do you believe the above garbage?
Let me pause for those of you who have no idea what I’m rambling on about. Lent is a period of forty days that begins with Ash Wednesday (the mysterious day during which lots of people have dirt on their foreheads) leading up to Easter. Check out this quick primer on you tube:
Lent lacks all of the mysterious wonder of Advent, the time in which we wait for the birth of the manger baby. Instead, Lent leads us toward Bad Friday, the day we remember Jesus’ horrific death instead of his cozy birth. And yes, Lent truly ends with the Alleluia’s of Easter, but let’s be honest, Lent seems to prepare us for a cross, not an empty tomb. Traditionally, Lent has been a time in which observant Christians painstakingly examine their lives. It is a time in which we come to terms with our own brokenness in order to make room for Jesus to move in and sweep our hearts clean.
I can tell you many reasons the above is an important, in fact crucial, aspect of the Christian life. But that changes nothing for me. I hate it. It is miserable. I don’t want to examine my brokenness. It’s exhausting.
I have had a bit of a revelation, however, that has saved me, and maybe will save you, from totally detesting the ancient Christian season of Lent. I gained this little perspective on vacation this past January.
Vacations are often the only time I have the space or time to reflect. And during our past family vacation it became evident to me that I had been a bit of a snarly, pissed-off-over-worked, impatient mother. In fact, when I asked my family if I had been that bad the previous fall, they broke out in laughter. And then when I pressed them even further, they all agreed I had been complaining a great deal. In the words of my seven year old, eye brows raised, “O Mom! You complain all the time!”
Yikes! That hurt. I was on vacation with my beloved family and they all told me I was a bitter complainer. To make it worse, I like to imagine myself as a grateful person. Last I checked grateful people don’t complain a lot. But there I was, in the midst of a beautiful vacation from my life, my back to a wall. I had two choices before me: 1) I could deny I was a complainer and hate my family for telling me incorrect information and ruin my vacation 2) I could accept their painful truth and start changing my ways while in the relaxed womb of vacation.
I chose option two. I had been a complainer. And it was a lot easier to start changing my ways while I was on vacation from the constant pressures of our lives. The best news was that when I checked in with my family recently they confirmed my hope—I have been complaining less. (At least I have made strides in one area of my life.)
Lent can be like vacation. It’s God’s invitation to take a step back and reflect, evaluate, take stock. God’s invitation doesn’t have to feel like penance (hello, related to the word penitentiary!). It isn’t like being thrown into a cell with a dirt floor, people screaming a litany of our broken ways through bars. Instead, Lent can (and perhaps should!) feel like a vacation—like a forty day invitation to vacate our day to day lives and come face to face with a God who has claimed us as her very own beloved.
For some of us this invitation will mean taking on a new spiritual practice. For others it will mean writing a list of the endless blessings in our lives. For others of us it will mean confronting the hard truth that our brokenness (complaining) has been affecting those around us. For others of us it will be something entirely different.
What I learned on vacation is that confronting our brokenness doesn’t have to be awful (even if it is hard). Instead, if we remember the God who invites us to such self-examination loves us better than we love ourselves, than the 40 days of Lent can be a vacation from the rest of the world. Lent can be a safe place to take a serious look at who we are. Then, just maybe, we can become the person God invites us to be.
Rev. Abigail A Henrich (ehm!) is an ordained minister who earned her stripes at Princeton Theological Seminary and Colgate University. That said, Abby is really a mother-pastor-spouse who lives in a kinetic state of chaos as she moves from her many vocations: folding laundry, preaching, returning phone calls, sorting lunch boxes, answering e-mails, and occasionally thinking deep thoughts in the shower. Unabashedly she is a progressive Christian who believes some shaking up has got to happen in the church.