Growing up, Lent was always a time of guilt and shame. Guilt to give things up, guilt of my despicable ‘sins’ (although they were not really sin), shame if I misstepped, shame if I did not confess it all, shame if I did not make Lent a time of bearing even heavier burdens.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Lent! It is a time of intentionality, a time when we get another chance to live in the way of Jesus. To give alms, fast from things that take our attention away from God and our neighbors, and grow in a deeper, more intimate relationship with the Triune God through prayer.
If we are being honest with ourselves, it seems like waking up in the morning is enough work as it is. Trying to balance family, vocation, and our own wholeness is a full-time job on top of a full-time job. We are carrying burdens in our everyday lives, and sometimes it feels like adding Lent will break the camel’s back.
I was recently pondering how people in the Bible find their faces and bodies on the ground when they encounter God. Complete surrender to the awe and majesty of God. Sounds like classic Lent to me.
However, I have a question: how can we fall on our faces for God when the world already has us in the dirt, maybe even halfway to 6 feet under? When trans* people are simply trying to live as the people God has created them to be, why do we have to go to the feet of Jesus when we are already there?
Classic Lent works for some and I think we are beginning to realize (thank God!) that Lent in the year 2023 for marginalized communities can feel like another millstone on our already vulnerable, despised, and rejected bodies. The last thing we need is for God to play our society’s game of oppression.
As a pastor who serves a congregation of people on the margins (trans* and nonbinary folx, people of color, people with disabilities, kids, hourly wage workers, seniors with serious health conditions, folx in recovery, folx who are just trying to stay alive, folx who struggle with trauma and addiction), Classic Lent does not work. Maybe, just maybe, throwing ourselves at Jesus’s feet is too much, too much relinquishing of power and self-depreciation.
So for this Lent, I am not uniformly telling my people and this world that they need to suffer more. Instead, I am suggesting we sit in God’s lap instead of laying at Their feet. There is still a reverence and awe of God’s power, there is still a submission to God’s will and way for our lives. But sitting in God’s lap is something we can actually do and I actually want to do. When we sit in God’s lap, especially with despised and rejected bodies, we are held by God even as we march through Lent. We are surrounded and affirmed in our bodies even as we are called to take up our cross. We are not taking the easy way out. Rather, God is meeting us where we are. Is that not what Lent is all about? So whether we find ourselves prostrated in the dirt or find our needed security and safety in God’s lap, we will return to dust just the same. And we will resurrect just the same. Welcome to Lent.
Gracious God, we give you thanks for the gift of our Lenten journey. We know you journey with us and meet us where we are. May we find comfort and discipline in being held in your lap, as we kneel, and as we lay in the dirt. Surround us with your grace as we journey to the cross. For you have not abandoned nor forsaken us thus far. We ask all of these things in the name of Jesus who is the Christ, Amen.