smelly fish

So I bought some fresh, wild-caught fish. I had great intentions to season it, bake it, and eat it with a side of Caribbean-style fried rice, and steamed veggies. How tender and flavorful the fish would be, I imagined in my head as I unloaded my groceries. I counted down the days until the date marked with the meal plan of “fish, rice, & veggies” arrived. Finally.

And then E opened the fish package. 
I about died.
Perhaps my dramatic side is taking over the realistic side of me which recognizes death did not ensue smelling the fish. But in all honesty, the fish smelled terrible. And the stench seeped into the fabric on my furniture, my clothing in my closet, and my pores. Nasty.
Part of me wanted to just throw it away, pretending I never bought it in the first place. Another part of me wanted to mask the smell with a strong air freshener. I almost forgot the original inspiration of a delectable meal.

Having fish as a meal is kind of like the Lenten journey. The forty days leading up to Easter is the journey of preparation and repentance. The nasty smell of the fish rooted deep in our hearts leads us to repent and mourn the darkness of our hearts. A space in time, dates on a calendar, to intentionally rip back the plastic package and acknowledge the stench deep within us. We recognize the depravity, the doubt, the despair, and the deficiency within us. The point is to take stock of our lives and reorient life God-ward. And this forty day wilderness-like experience shakes us, makes us uncomfortable and exposes the layers of “self” beneath the surface. The difficulty of Lent tempts one to pretend Ash Wednesday never happened, just as we wish to pretend the fish was never bought in the first place. The process of light, the True Light, exposing the darkness and backwards-ness of our lives is unpleasant at times. It’s especially unpleasant as the internal work permeates every area of our lives, despite the many air-fresheners, masks, and band-aids we use. Lent is first and foremost about the Gospel making its way deeper into our lives, seeping into our homes, our outward appearances, our relationships, and our very souls.

And throughout the forty days, we wait, we seek, and we anticipate the meal, the taste, the smell, the beauty. Oh, how we hope! The delicious fish meal that is to come has nothing to do with the initial nasty smell or the spices I used to season the fish. The Easter celebration is not about our discipline, diligence, or dedication, but about God.  Easter is the dramatic climax of the greatest story: the incarnate God-man died on the cross so that through His death and resurrection He might destroy Satan, sin, and death!

May you purchase some fresh, wild-caught fish and enter into this season of Lent. May you peel back that which gets in the way of you seeing and smelling your life and priorities as they really are. May you prepare and repent and wait, because Easter is coming! Gladly anticipate the deliciousness of the meal! Immerse yourself in this journey and rejoice in the Light that shines in our dark, smelly selves. 

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