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Lent: A Season of Holy Unearthing

Have you ever seen those news stories floating around on Facebook that say, “WOW You’ll never guess what this kid found while digging in his backyard!” or “Elderly woman discovers Chevy Bel Air buried behind house” or “pirate treasure discovered in playground?” Well. Obviously these brave explorers who uncovered these objects were getting real cozy with the soil…but they were digging up some pretty crazy and life-changing stuff. Were these treasures hidden in a field? Not sure. Will have to think more about that.

It’s like Lent. Lent is not only a time set apart so that I can practice not drinking pop (that was 2009’s Lent…woah hard life w/o Rootbeer) to purify my body, but it is rather a time for spiritual redirection. Lent is a time to dig things up.

Lent is 1) for traveling through Jesus’ earthly life, through the parables and miracles and consternation and cryptic future/present talk, to better understand him and his mission; 2) to adopt practices of contemplation so as to reevaluate personal and congregational spiritual practices; and 3)for getting up close and personal with the brokenness and shiznit of the world to better understand the world’s need for God. (Please add your own purposes to this list. Obviously there are a lot more I could have said. But 3 is a good number).

In previous blog posts, I have talked about how Lent is a great and useful season, but I like advent better. I have a lot of ideas about why I would think something like this. Advent is the time when we get to embrace our bodies and live the reality of the incarnation in our physical selves…that’s super cool for me, a dancer, and someone who loves to think about embodiment. Advent is a time when women [Mary] really matter; it’s so much easier to think about the life-giver than the life-taker(s). It is easier to think about the ways that the world is dark and needs God with the coming of Christ in the future than to sit in the reality that the cross is coming, that Jesus was persecuted and killed for being a sociopolitical figure speaking out against the powers and principalities. For these reasons, advent is easier for me.

So, here we sit, in the thick of Lenten angst. I didn’t really give anything up, because in recent years I’ve taken a leaf out of my friend Allie’s book and tried to add things to my life instead. This Lenten season, I’m sitting with the word “unearth” and holding it in the palm of my hand, attempting to see all my life happenings in this framework. And not a lot has been going my way (blah blah blah, I’m a grownup and things don’t always go my way–I know, I just need to wallow for a sec, ok?) Some things which I’ve felt were sturdy and healthy and positive crumbled within a matter of hours, throwing a wrench in the works of my body, heart and mind. (Ok, on one hand, yes, these things are big and serious. On the other hand, I’m kinda upset that I have bronchitis right now and sound like a frog. Ewww.)

So then I ask: what am I unearthing here? What things, which have been hidden until now, have needed to be uncovered? What happens on the surface when our foundations are unearthed? How does my life change, knowing now what has previously been unknown?

hands in dirt

At our last meeting, the first Friday of Lent, my spiritual director blessed me with this prayer:

“On this journey of unearthing, may you get down in the dirt. See it for what it really is. And maybe even begin to get comfortable there.”

Lord, in your mercy, hear this prayer.

It’s one thing to be upset that things aren’t going my way. It’s another to look at secrets coming to light and strained friendships and health issues and breakups and say, “Ok. This sucks and it hurts, but why are these pieces being unearthed right now? What do I have to learn right now?”

That’s one aspect of unearthing. Another aspect is realizing that, after you’ve been digging around in the ground, you have dirty hands. And our hands are dirty–with the oppression of millions of people whose bodies look different from our own. Our hands are dirty with the blood shed from slavery, wage theft, sexual exploitation and many other horrors of this world. And the crappy part is that, no matter what we learned in Sunday school, we can’t just wash our hands with the Living Water and therefore be clean. We must match this faith in the creative cleanliness of Christ with a dedication to lift up the folks on whose shoulders we stand and on whose bodies our privilege benefits.

dirty handsThere is grace in learning to live with the tensions and contradictions that people we love sometimes do stupid things and that people who are good make mistakes and that sometimes we speak too soon out of anger and that we hurt people. There is grace in asking hard questions and having difficult conversations and in interrogating your privilege and “unpacking your knapsack.” There is grace in living in the balance between “why now?” and “I’m learning.” There is grace in forgiveness, and grace in brokenness. There is grace in realizing I am (and you are too) a beloved child of God and I am (we are) beautiful to behold.

And thank you, God, that Lent is just a season. Seasons pass and change and transform, as do relationships and problems and even me. And this Lenten transformation is succeeding in getting me to be more mindful about my daily living; about my intentional relationships with friends, family, housemates, and colleagues; and about my own practices of self-care that help me uncover the Divine in my daily life.

Lent is upon us. So, let’s get down in the dirt.

What are you unearthing this Lenten season?

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.