If the objective of Lent is to cultivate a deeper awareness and appreciation of the grace of God, epitomized in the marvelous Salvivic Act on Calvary, then I’m having a pretty successful Lent.
If the objective of Lent is merely to mechanically sacrifice and do without in a prescribed or calculated manner, whatever aspect or aspects that particular doing without happens to involve, then I can only conclude that I’ve blown the liturgical season altogether this time around.
I recognize and affirm the need that we have as human creatures to shake things up a little. We so easily settle into the humdrum of day to day, week to week, month to month, and year to year living. We get into our comfortable and preferential ruts. It’s easy to “settle on our lees” as Zephaniah talks about in 1:12 of the prophetic book that bears his name.
Then some bad stretches of life-road come along, even successions of bad stretches of life-road.
We don’t plan for them, can’t plan for them. Life happens and confronts us and we don’t, for all our self-confident effort and well rehearsed philosophies and theologies, have much control over what life does or does not do. The very nature of living life in a very real world imposes refining forces on us that move us into a type of the continuous Lent that our Patron talks about in RB 49. We don’t have to look for or select ways or means that test or try us.
Life quite often has a way of doing a really good job of selecting our trials for us. And all we can do is go with the flow, bash against the boulders, take getting dunked in the whirlpools, and ride the rapids in hope of calmer water. I’ve been wet and banged around for a while now. Is that a stretch of still water that I see?
It’s easy to fight against the bruising turbulent forces of life, to wish them away. They, after all, seem to extract so much from us. Maybe, just maybe, they are what we need to loosen and limber our lees from their settled and concretized positions, the wetting and kneading agents used by the Skillful Potter in an effort to fashion us more in his making.