Beloved, remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
Today, we begin a journey that invites us to clear out the gunk that surrounds our hearts, and reconciles the points where we get off track. In Lent, we tune parts of our lives to make the call of God come in a little clearer. We can track our intimacy and estrangement with God. Many theologians over the centuries have defined sin as estrangement from God. Where God seems far off, and things make less sense. Sin is a terribly loaded word, one that people unjustly level at each other, when it is really a conversation between you and God. I think it boils down to: What makes you feel stingy with love? Do less of that. What makes you truly love more? Do much, much more of that. Lent is a time when we can really make these things a practice.
I was talking with a friend about what I might do during Lent, and as I thought through ideas, some seemed harder than others. Give up beer? It’d be hard, but I could do it. Give up internal judgment, or acting out of perfectionism? I could never do that well. But as she often does, she cracked my fretting open and told me, “You don’t have to do it perfectly. That’s why it’s a practice. You work on it, and see where you get. And practice forgiving yourself when you don’t do what you want. The practice changes you, not getting it right.” We can undertake practices in Lent not because we are prepared to execute them perfectly, but because we are formed by practice, even (especially) when we embrace our imperfections.
Embracing our imperfections, starting our practice from this acknowledgment, opens us up to deeper intimacy with ourselves, our neighbors, and with God. True intimacy is not just acts you do, or looking like you have a relationship with God. It is sharing your soul, it is counting on God and knowing you can, feeling that nothing is too ugly or shameful to bring before God, because in the end you are held in unconditional love. So this love gives us room to admit when we fall short of all we could be, because those shortcomings are still not the final word. And we have value not because of the things we do or do not do, but because God loves us first.
We all come from different places, and may have different ways to grow closer to God during Lent. The whole goal is intimacy with God, at the end, not pure self-denial. Self-denial is sometimes the means, but the end is relationship. Authentic, intimate relationship. I encourage you to think thoroughly and prayerfully about what practices, in your own circumstances, will open your heart to God.
Throughout this time, if I can be of any support to you, I am available.