Life is being stripped down and it is not over. Lent began this year on February 26th, and it will continue until April 9th, though in reality it will likely spill well over the calendar’s brim. Ash to ash, dust to dust: Lent has chosen us, all of us, even if we didn’t choose it. No more bars, no more casual conversations, fewer and fewer hugs. The prohibitions grow by the hour. Lent’s invitation is sinister, like how death is sinister - it came upon us and we were powerless. Lent was never an exercise in balance, portion control or a practice to reclaim the comforts of piety. Lent is about death, the death of life, the death of our ways - noble or not. Lent kills everything, good and bad, just and unjust, and it doesn’t give a fuck who you are.
Lent this year seems hell-bent on throwing it all in the fire. We don’t get the option between chocolate, caffeine or instagram - this year it’s our jobs, our friends and our humanity.
February 26th, Ash Wednesday, the day of the first case of community spread in the United States. It’s so obvious, yet you almost have to close your eyes to hear what it’s saying. It’s a prophetic word, a word about our humanity - a word that’s taking us all the way down. We’re in denial right now. I keep imagining tomorrow I’ll go do work at the Bakery. But soon the anger will rise. We’ll throw our fists up at God, and in our own way pray the prayer Job taught us to pray, Seriously God, what the actual fuck?! And we’ll keep clinging and clinging, hoping to reclaim life as it was, and that’s ok, because grief is what humans do.
So let’s not rush it. Let’s not tie this all up in a bow. For the love of God don’t tell me it’s all going to be ok, because a lot of people are going to die, marriages will end, people are going to lose hope. If you want to give someone a word of encouragement make sure it’s a word that feels like spooning and not like a fucking side hug. Don’t try to peel yourself or others out of the coffin too early - let this do its work.
For God’s sake, don’t make this about the return of Christ. It’s not helpful and I suppose Christ will come back when he’s good and ready whether you’re looking for him or not. Or maybe Lent will scrape off the cataract that make us look for Jesus in the clouds rather than in our neighbor. My faith tells me resurrection is inevitable, but not unless the seed falls to the earth, or all my possessions are sold for the poor, or I go through the agony of birth again and again and again. Don’t let this be a bump in your road. Mourn with those who mourn. As Liz said yesterday, “Give the loss its fair shake.” Be numb and be open to feeling again. Laugh when it hits you just right and then let the tears flow until you’re laughing again.
Ash to ash, dust to dust, Lent has chosen all of us. God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for our food. By his hands, we are fed. Give us LORD our daily bread.