This year my Lenten journey has been different from any year that I can recall. It’s not just because I’m living in England (although that has something to do with it); it’s that I’ve made a conscious effort to find God in all things – even the shitty stuff.
Each year I look at Lent as a time to cleanse my soul; refresh my spirit; and let go. This year I’ve decided to hold on. I’m holding on to grudges, hurts, disappointments, and hate and ‘staring them square in the eye.’ I’m forcing myself to encounter my own sinfulness. I’m examining the times when I have failed to love. Self-examination is not for the faint of heart but I’m reminded that God is always with me. Even during my lowest points I have not been abandoned.
Often when things don’t go my way I want to cry or scream or cuss (or all three). But usually the bad things pass or the disappointment fades or the hurt heals and I realize then that I could never survive without my faith. The faith that is nourished by my family, my friends and my community. The faith that sustains me during life’s heart-breaks, setbacks and disappointments.
It seems that disappointments come in all forms. My 18 month-old grandson Noah attends a gym class. Said gym class consists of running around on padded mats, swinging from bars, throwing the occasional ball and following some limited instructions with a bunch of other 1 or 2 year-olds. It’s great fun! This week while doing his “routine” he spied an obvious grandfather watching through the visitor’s window. Occasionally he would stop and wave at the man. At the end of class while Noah was walking toward him, the grandfather scooped a little girl up in his arms (apparently his own granddaughter). With that, Noah sat right down and cried. I’m not certain if he mistook the man for me but that’s what my daughter suspected. Maybe he just wanted to be held – don’t we all? Maybe he was wondering why he wasn’t the one being swept up into his Pawpaw’s arms? We’ll never know exactly what was going on in Noah’s little heart and mind.
Of course after hearing that story, I nearly sat on the floor and cried, too. Why did I leave my grandkids to come to England? Why must Noah cry? Why does the separation have to hurt so much at times? What can I do to make it right? At that moment I desperately needed Noah in my arms and still today I ache for his touch. On Easter I will have the joy of holding him and his sister and his cousin. Until then I will just hold on to the bittersweet thought of his disappointment. Poor Noah – poor me!
Jesus’ victory over death on Easter Sunday is our victory, too. But perhaps first we must embrace our own suffering to be truly joyous on that glorious day. I know that I will be beaming on Easter with Noah in my arms. Until then, I will have to continue my soul-searching and confront the pain and disappointments in my life. And remember that God will never abandon me.