“I am just so sick and tired of focusing on how depraved I am,” I moaned and let out a sigh so wide you could stick a fist in it. “If the word repentance simply means to turn, then shouldn’t we be more concerned with what we’re turning to than what we’re turning from?”
“It’s Lent, Erin,” my husband Rush reasoned. “This is precisely the time to focus on where we’ve gone wrong.”
“But we’re Easter people!” I yelled, willing those angry tears to roll down hot.
“Right. And it’s only six whole weeks that we remember we haven’t always been.”
Easter could not come soon enough this year. And not just because I was fasting from the fountain of wine. But because I felt like I was praying away the f-up in me every time I entered a church.
This isn’t the point of Lent, I know. Of course, I know. But do I? Do I really know when I speak the words of my total depravity during the prayer of confession that it is simply not true? That our fall from Eden could never have been total or else there would have never been hope . What am I supposed to believe when we say, “There is no health in us,” and I’ve seen the hope of humanity with my own eyes, and not just in shiny babies and Amy Poehler but in the brown skin of a Muslim woman who does not even call Jesus Lord? Total? None? No good? Even after all this grace and forgiveness and blood spilled on the altar of our callousness?
I felt like telling Lent to kiss mine this year. I do not want to look back and turn into a pillar of salt. I do not want to make monuments out of my many moments of sinfulness. I would rather keep my eyes on the glory by and by.
You are not for me, Lent. You are not for good little girls who grow up with guilt complexes and can count each crumb of their transgression in their bellies, not for those of us who are drawn to death and seduced by self-annihilation. It is not the sting of death we fear but the threat of resurrection. Easter is our lesson. We know you, Lent, too well.
My friend asked if I would play an “accuser” in our Good Friday service this year. “Yikes,” I wrote back in an email. But I showed up and yelled “Crucify him!” with the rest of ’em. The musical director insisted it would be powerful – “Don’t be surprised if the words get caught in your throat” – but I didn’t feel much other than the satisfaction of having done my duty.
I was driving home from the service with my mom in the passenger seat when she wondered aloud what our modern-day “crucify him”‘s would have sounded like. What insults would we have hurled at the nail-pierced feet of Jesus? I tried to think of some really gruesome ones, ones that would make most church folks blush, but when I finally settled on mine, it didn’t sound very menacing at all. Still I knew it probably would have crushed him as heavy as those thorns.
“I’m good, Jesus. It’s all good.”
It is no more all good than it is totally depraved. We are sin and glory, shadow and light, Lenten and Easter people. When we try to make our home in one reality or another, we trade nuance for neurosis.
To be sure, we each spin out of balance in our own ways – a message of refining repentance for one may be destructive damnation for another. But I am sure of this: we are all called to be border dwellers.
We are all on paradox patrol.