The early-sun stills my heart to sit,
this “making room” leftover from Advent,
is now giving birth to Lent—
a new season to contemplate the old,
a season of dawn: of all of our hopes, retold.
But first, it’s dark and the way is long
the lengthening of days piling up in fog
over my heart that needs hope like oxygen
my soul that needs rest, breathing in,
breathing out, this sound a melody
where old meets new
and where I meet You.
You, who said that you would come—
then waiting came instead; we made our home
in it, its easy idols, fingers like fans,
in sticky silence, maple syrup on unwashed hands,
marveling, reveling like a lark
revealing hearts just as dark
as the stuff we play in:
snuffing out our hope; we succumb to sin.
You, who promised to redeem
us from ourselves, make us clean
in this season to be set free,
not to make yet another form of slavery
fasting, freedom, resisting, redemption—
the same heartbeats, beating recollection
into my veins, my deep-blue arteries
that strain and stain themselves: red berries
upon a vine without thorns:
You, a place to abide until the weather warns:
a rumble deep, a shattering light
that stills my heart again—to look up from the long night.
I sit deep into the silence that this morning I can be still in, not rush ahead to work, to the to-do list, but sit still to write, because my work is right here—under my hands, on this screen, and under my roof, sitting close to me. A friend is here, and today we will sit, cross-legged on my bed and choose life together as we read and discuss His word. His spirit will lead us as we dream large and pray big, as we let Him win our hearts all over again.
Yes, I can sit for a few moments and remember the cross: the bleeding, the dying, and the living: the cross-shape making my own life today. I didn’t put it on my forehead yesterday, but there it is, an unwashed blemish I’ll cherish forever, upon my heart, branding words and promise and truth into a heart made new. I can still my heart around its true form that makes me true, too. Because it makes me new, newer still every day, a form and figure I could never take—but for Him, but for the cross.
Without Christ, I am nothing. I’m dimly searching for words that hurt and bruise and cannot heal. I’m striving at straws, needles in haystacks, everything pinching and prodding, and I’m promising to do better, but never can.
With Christ, I still am nothing, but my search is over. The words come from the source of the very first word, the very firstborn of creation. I’m healed, once and for all, and I’m ceasing striving because it never feels good to strive when you’re meant to rest. My promises for better have stopped and stooped low under the one who is better—than heaven and angels and all the rest. Yet, miraculously, I’m only a little bit below Him, His face bowed low over mine, cupping my face with hands that hold grace itself in tandem with mercy and freedom and all things good.
This is where I am today: in the wake of Ash Wednesday, the mark is deeper than the ashes draw. The flaw is permanent, and yet, it is fixed: two cross-beams and a man affixed upon them, for me, for you, for all who would believe.
I awoke earlier groggy and in pain, but I still myself anyway, remembering that Jesus too felt this way, and still He went away, into desolate places to pray, for me, for you, for the day ahead of Him that held more than He could hope to do, but that His Father held and led, for me, for you.
Last year, I went into Lent, tentatively, alone, unsure of what it all meant. I pridefully gave up social media and sweets, dolefully cringing at the ache it left within me. I don’t remember what I learned: the whole season was really a blur of events and tears and unknown fears that I couldn’t name, but that certainly named me, properly introduced: their daughter: Afraid.
I knew my name, and I believed its game, that I couldn’t never really, forever, be changed.
But this year, the tears are slower and the fears are known, named, no longer naming me. The proper nouns are where they should be, and the liars, too. If my mind is like a book, they’re buried in the endnotes, where one rarely looks.
I think Lent will be a time to look.
A time to look at those fears and those liars, and then to look, to gaze at the cross, where they were nailed and disarmed in open shame, shame that should’ve been attributed to me was given to another, and I too, given away—as a beloved bride—to a resurrected Savior.
Lent is meant to be a journey though, a long walk, like the calvary road of Jesus. This is the example we’re following, the lives we ourselves are living, like Jesus, fighting temptation and experiencing freedom in a reality that is always ours, a hard road that had its first steps in death and will have its last steps there, too.
But not its final steps. Death is not how this story ends.
Because, what the cross shows us more than anything else is this: it’s only the beginning. There was life on the other side of death—life for all of us still to live.
The problems that plague us, whether during Lent or not, the sufferings we take on and the death-road we are following Jesus on cannot be contained in a 40-day spiritual experience. It’s, ultimately, to change us. To make us more like Jesus. To conform us into His likeness, and that includes, requires, sufferings and problems and cross-shaped burdens to bear.
But the ultimate unraveling of Lent comes when death breathes its last. The resurrection that we are painstakingly walking toward is coming. All throughout His ministry, Jesus alludes to this day. Anytime He speaks of the cross, He speaks of the resurrection. He knows that death will not be the end.
And yet, He lived like it was.
And so we, too, take these days to live like the cross is all we’re after this Lent. But in the meantime, the hope of resurrection coming in its wake will surprise us in the smallest of ways—what death accomplishes, life affirms. what the cross buries, life uncovers. what the cross tells us, life shows us.
Lent is about leaning into that life, the cross-life, and letting the Truth that it embodies, that He whispers and winks and leans in close to say, define us.
*This is the first in a series. Subscribe to the blog to follow along!