The Lenten season has begun. Yesterday, I wrote about the thin places – where heaven and earth collide in beauty. Today, I’m sharing a most personal thing: what Lent will look like for me. I’d love to know what the season will look like for you, and I’d love to pray for you and with you. Share your story in the comments, or send a message my way at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jesus holds out His hand to us and invites us to become the thin places – heaven and earth in flesh and blood, conduits of hope and grace and mercy and love. I want to embrace that invitation, to not allow myself to build walls that divide dirt and divinity, that relegate heaven to other seasons or ministry to well-orchestrated moments. I don’t know what those walls might look like in your life. For me, they are stones of doubt, anxiety, comparison, and fear that I continue to let stay on the path of faith.
Jesus is holding out His hand on the path to brace me as I move the stones. And in this Lenten season, I am being reminded of four words that help keep places thin.
Take. Break. Bless, Give.
When Jesus fed thousands. When He hosted a powerful night with His closest friends. When He carried the very cross He would then be nailed to in the perfect offering of love for both those who held the hammers and the burial cloth.
Take. Break. Bless. Give.
Jesus took the ordinary, the common, the earthly. He broke it apart, shattered it, watched the blood pour and the crumbs fall. He lifted the brokenness up and transformed earthly into heavenly. He gave the thin spaces to us so what we might be changed.
Yes, I have felt the thin places in so many places. It’s time to accept the invitation and become thin. Heaven and earth in flesh and blood.
For years, my participation in the Lenten season has been cursory – giving up something that brings me pleasure in honor of a Savior who gave all for me. This year, there is a hunger for the season to be just that – a season of planting, of cultivating, of harvesting life. I think about the friends of the paralyzed man, so desperate to be face-to-face with Jesus that they were willing to dig through a roof to get to Him, and ask myself if I would have been willing to do the same, or if I would have simply shrugged my shoulders and said, “well, I guess it’s not in the cards to be in His presence.”
I am ready to get on my knees and get dirty, to actively participate in the faithful season of giving up and taking up. Lent, for me, looks a lot less lofty and a lot more like digging. Though I am not Catholic, I find the theme for Lent to be a most beautiful directive:
“The Word is a gift. Other persons are a gift.”
Gifts are one of my love languages. The act of thoughtfully considering and selecting something that will be of benefit to the person who will receive it – if only to bring a smile to their face – is a joy to me. I would rather give gifts throughout the year than wait for a designated day. Lent is a reminder that the best gifts are all around me, in people and moments that should be celebrated without reservation, without segregation.
Again, I am brought straight back to Jesus – the pervasive Jesus who calls us to be the thin place on this earth.
Your approach to Lent may be different than mine. Honestly, in looking at it, my season looks a bit pragmatic. The digging and planting and cultivating, the thoughtful consideration of gifts, the physical reminders may seem too much. But then I see the hand of Jesus, again ready to brace me through the journey. I don’t know what awaits us on the other side. But this I do know – in the presence of Jesus, there is life. And that is the most precious gift of all.
Take. Break. Bless. Give.
Take: Take time, give space to breathe, pray, receive, and listen. For me, time might be found walking or in the kitchen or drinking a cup of lovely coffee on the balcony or even being quiet as the sun rises outside my window. But time is for the taking and the giving. And it begins here, with the God of all time being given time to speak. (I will be using Richard Rohr’s Lenten devotional book to remind me of what God says about us, and allow the small prayers to invoke breath prayers for others throughout the day.)
Break: Break strongholds that keep me from embracing fully the love and purpose of the Lord. Confess the sin that needs to be delivered into the hands of the God who restores, and confess all that is good and worthy of praise. Replace the things of gravity with things of light. (A practical reminder of breaking strongholds will be to purge something each day – something I’ve been hanging onto with a “one day that might be valuable again” or “one day I’ll get back to that” attitude, or something that symbolizes hoarding, envy, fear, or greed. It might be a physical item, an attitude, a nagging thought…)
Bless: Bless with my words. Bless with my actions. Let kindness rule in my steps. (Two things I’ll be doing during this season as physical reminders: have a “words jar” in my house, where money will be dropped each time my conversations are not trustworthy, true, beneficial, and seasoned with grace. And I will send a kindness to someone else each day – maybe a hand-written note, a text or message, a song, a poem.)
Give: This may be the most difficult for me to do, because it’s so easy to allow my imagination to long for other days or greater stories or fresh adventures – and I squander present days. But the thin places are found when I give myself to the days, to the leading of the Holy Spirit in the mundane and miraculous. I long to give myself to the daily labor of my hands, and to the dreams that so easily can be tossed to the side. In the same way I long to show kindness to others, I want to show it to myself, not begrudging this life I live. I give myself to the consideration that this present life contains storylines I’ve yet been blind to. I give myself to the beauty of being laid at the feet of the One who is in all and through all – without segregation. (In my journal, I’ll make notes of where Jesus pervades the days.)
Jesus holds out His hand to us and invites us to become the thin places – heaven and earth in flesh and blood, conduits of hope and grace and mercy and love.
This Lenten season, I am saying “yes” to a life of thin places. A life without segregation. Will you join me?