“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

This year is not my first Lent rodeo. I’ve been intentional during Lent in past years…giving up loves like chocolate, social media, and coffee. Knowing the denial of flesh desires might cause me to ache for God just a little bit more, I set lovely things aside for forty days. So when I closed my eyes and my friend rubbed ashes across my forehead over a month ago, I prayed this season would be richer and more meaningful than I’ve ever experienced.

And then I spent a few days pondering what might need to be set aside that I might grow in intimacy with my Maker. I thought about what needed to be added in order to re-orient myself God-ward. I considered my “best” time of the day and how I reserve it for myself. I reflected on how the dark silence of night soothes and comforts me. I contemplated on how lovely books feel in my hands. Then I placed my ritual of evening cuddles with a delicious book into the offering plate.

Night-time for years has been a bed of distraction. I escape my life. I run to a different world. I avoid my current situation. I withdraw from my story. The more time I spend away from my life, the cloudier my vision gets. The fog of sidestepping skews the way I perceive situations, the way I receive constructive criticism, and the way I love my neighbor. My responses are shallow and edgy and self-centered. My ears cannot hear clearly when I’m distracted and withdrawn.

Putting down the books at night-time has become a spacious place for reflection, writing, and prayer. Delightful and delectable. Week after week, I digest topics like repentance, humility, service, lament, sacrifice, and death. Dismal and distasteful. I show up night after night, journal and pen, turning off the noise of the day. Sometimes I expect burning bushes. Sometimes it’s late and I count how many hours I won’t get to sleep. And sometimes, if I’m really honest, I think time with the Almighty One is a boring chore. 
Lent. What a delicately disturbing season.

This Lenten journey of reorienting the space set aside each night has fractured my avoidance tactics. I can’t help but face my humanness: the pace of my breathing, my potluck of emotions, my annoyances, my arrogance, my fears, the recent scar on my skin, my doubts, and my impatience. It’s messy and gross, staring into a mirror. But it’s so necessary.

I am hopeful. I believe the deep ruts of escape I found myself defaulting toward each night, might finally be filling in. The moments of silence and sighing center me. The promises and encouragement I receive comfort me. The honesty and surrender free me. Every time I engage with my life, giving full attention to my fears, praying specifically for my concerns, listening actively to my questions, every single time I’m shoveling a little dirt into the ruts. The dirt packs itself in and I am hopeful it’s creating a new default. A default of being present and aware, whole and peaceful, free and gracious.

Now it’s holy week and my self-consumed eyes have shifted God-ward. In fact, this season has never been about me growing in self-awareness. It’s never really been about dust remembering where it came from or where it’s going. Thirty-some days later and my gaze has finally turned. This week is sacred. I see the green branches waving, I hear shouts of praise. I smell the bread baking and taste the sweetness of the wine. The water runs over my feet, cleansing and humbling me. A kiss of betrayal is coming, a skirmish and an arrest in a garden. I’m told there will be a denial, a rooster, and a trial. A flogging and a cross, darkness and an earthquake, and then a torn curtain.

Is that it, then? Forty days of reflection and re-orienting only to see darkness win? It can’t end there, can it? A new default, a better nightly rhythm, leaving me more authentic and centered that ultimately results in a return to the old ways? Surely, there is hope for real change. The Light cannot been snuffed out. The grave cannot have the final word, right?

Some days, I’m not sure. So I’m going to lean in this week, straining my ears to hear the whispers of hope. I’ll squint my eyes to see flickers of light. I’ll savor the taste of the bread and wine Thursday. I won’t hold back the tears Friday night. Throughout Saturday, I’ll engage the places of waiting, hopelessness and fear. And Sunday morning, I’ll show up and maybe, just maybe, there will be more to the story.

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