Lent begins in Ashes, on Ash Wednesday, March 5 this year. Ashes are symbolic of the human struggle. We don’t like to think about the evil in and around us, but we know that it is real. Just as are our conflicted relationships, and our perishability.
Why be intentional about these during Lent, when our impulse is to fasten on the pretense that we can be above and outside them? Is it because with Jesus, we are able to journey through the human struggle and learn about dignity and hope? Is it because Jesus faced the worst the world can offer, but did not surrender love? Because with him is our hope of life that is stronger even than death?
During Sundays of Lent this year, we will go with Jesus as he meets up with folks who are facing the kinds of questions and troubles we also know: Nicodemus, the questioning Pharisee; the Samaritan woman thirsty for more than water; a man born blind; and sisters Mary and Martha, grieving the death of their brother, Lazarus.
We will meet again these folks, and reflect on how Jesus ministered to them in ways that opened real life. And we will meet them in ourselves – and maybe find anew that our hurts and challenges can be transformed into something new, and beautiful.
I recently came across this poem by Wendell Berry that speaks to this hopeful paradox:
The Real Work
It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
And that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
There are rocks in the streams of each of our lives. During this Lent, with Christ, may we find the singing waters flowing in and through us.