Lent: Learning How to Die

5 years ago
I am realizing, as the new Lenten season broadens around us, that my fears, my uncertainties about who this God I gave my heart to is really, that they're about dying.
 
Dying to myself and my selfishness, to what I want or think I want or think I deserve or think I am owed (dangerous ground).  
 
And nobody wants to do any dying of any kind, because death is hard and scary and out of our control.  
 
Death hurts. 
 
But as I read words of Lent (courtesy of Brandy), I begin to wonder -- maybe it's not a matter of if I have to die to my gathering of comforts and safety, but when.  
 
We were not made for death, but the right kind of dying is the only thing that can save us, I think.

Image: sloanpix via Flickr

 
Joan Chittister writes in The Liturgical Year:
 
"'If you want to be my disciple, follow me,' we hear the voice of Jesus say in the Scriptures of commitment (Matt. 16:24, paraphrase).  And we find ourselves in that long, unending procession of those across time who have set out to walk to the Jerusalem of their own lives with the Jesus who shows us all how to go there."

Maybe the dying, the walking to our individual Golgotha daily and yearly and over a lifetime -- maybe that's the point.  

Because if we call our selves Jesus followers, don't we have to follow in Jesus' footsteps?  And where else was he ever aimed but the cross?

It's so easy, here in America, to believe that the point of life -- the point of my life -- is to be comfortable.  To be happy.

But Jesus, was he ever comfortable?

Because if comfort is the point, then what of the uncountable souls around the globe who are anything but?  Who believe in spite of slavery and disease and poverty and starvation and homes with only the earth for a floor?  What of those who live in the peace and joy of God without any of the peace and joy of earth?

Their stories shame me.  And inspire me. 

And challenge me to consider, even though my daughter is dead and everything else that is precious to me is so precariously uncertain, how I might die to my self and pass my heart over to God again and again and again.

Because that's what he wants, I think.  Hearts, whole and abandoned, so that he may fill them more than we ever could on our own.

"Lent requires me, as a Christian, to stop for a while, to reflect again on what is going on in me.  I am challenged again to decide whether I, myself, do truly believe that Jesus is the Christ -- and if I believe, whether I will live accordingly when I can no longer hear the songs of angels in my life and the star of Bethlehem has grown dim for me. . . .

"Lent is the period in which, learning to abstain from adoring at the shrine of the self, we come to see beyond the divinity we have made of ourselves to the divine will for all the world."

~ Joan Chittister, The Liturgical Year
 
What do I know?  Still not very much.  Only that my white knuckled grip on all that I love serves no one and saves nothing, including my self.  
 
Even though it scares me, I will try to give up the illusion of control I so desperately cling to, and wait for God to heal the wounds of fear and loss with his perfect love.  I must try to remember that unlike my two cent vending machine prayers that purchase nothing, this is an exchange that is worth, I think (I hope), everything.
 
"Ash Wednesday is a continuing cry across the centuries that life is transient, that change is urgent.  We don't have enough time to waste on nothingness.  We need to repent our dillydallying on the road to God.  We need to repent the time we've spent playing with dangerous distractions and empty diversions along the way. . . .  We need to get back in touch with our souls. . . .
 
"[This] is about our rising to the full stature of human reflection and, as a result, accepting the challenge to become fully alive, fully human rather than simply, grossly, abysmally, self-centeredly human."
 
~ Joan Chittister, The Liturgical Year

 
~Beth
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