The season of Lent is not one with which I grew up.
It was one of those things that was relegated to the Catholic corner with the statues of Mary, dollar store prayer candles, and fish on Fridays. We assumed it meant something to someone, but seeing as Jesus never mentioned Lent directly in the Bible, it just wasn’t something we were going to participate in.
Looking back on it now, I do find it a little odd. Lent is an entire season dedicated to the act repentance, and I have always thought my childhood church would have been all in on something like that. Repent! Believe the Good News! Go and sin no more!
Then again, at its core, Lent is about the deeply reflective work in finding our own eye-logs as opposed to finding others eye-specks, so perhaps that is one reason why.
No sane individual wakes up in the morning, beholds the blood-shot, pre-coffee person in the mirror and joyfully declares “AH! Yes! You are the just the one I wanted to see this morning! Let us sit and ponder just how it is that you came to be in this bedraggled state.”
Speaking from personal experience, when the scary-mirror-woman appears, I have a small turquoise brocade bag that houses a variety of tools, gadgets, and various balms to make her go away. Perhaps some concealer to depuff the eyes, a little lipstick to fix the corpse-like appearance, and some bush to make it seem like this visage actually has more than coffee and vain ambition coursing through her veins.
Mirror-lady is everything I hide from myself and the world. Her burgeoning forehead wrinkles scare me and remind me of all the ways I have not cared for her the best I could, so I make her up and send her out into the world as a new creation.
But she is still in there.
Her eyes are still tired. Her shaking hands hold up the façade of powders and creams. Her tired legs parade her around as if nothing had, has, or ever will go wrong.
Lent is for the mirror lady.
Lent is her time to shine, not in Revlon “Saucy Mauve” lipstick, but in her naked, cracked, and exhausted state. She is so very flawed and gets it all wrong so, so many times. Lent is her season.
The season of Lent is that odd time in the cycle of the Christian year when we are not just reminded that things may seem fragile, but in fact, things are fragile. Our bodies do not only appear to be capable of death and destruction, we very much so are capable of death and destruction.
It is a time when we are met face to face with the reality that we do, in fact, get many things wrong in both monumental and inconsequential ways. The difference though, as I see it, is that during Lent, we can see clearly that there is holiness in being wrong. There is something sacred in that fissure that forms when we suddenly realize that this thing we are holding on to, this lie we are perpetuating, this wound we are tearing open- that none of it is right, good, or holy.
It’s this strange moment when the God who created the universe with nothing but a divine thought sits in the living room with the light on, just waiting for the sound of our feet coming down the stairs. We hesitantly sink into the worn sofa, and we admit it. We did it again. We got the thing wrong for the 1000th time.
And what comes next is not the back of a hand, or the shrug of indifference, or the low gravel of stern disappointment, but a look of sheer relief and amazement. “Thank you. Thank you for coming here. Thank you for sharing this. I have nothing but love for you.”
This act of turning our backs on that which is dark and embracing that which is light is what the season of Lent is about. It is about coming home to the living room of God, sitting in the splitting pain of our indifferences, injuries, and chaos, and letting the person in the mirror be loved into wholeness again.
Lent is about following the One who always loves us before we can love ourselves, and who sits waiting, not merely thinking that we might come back, but holding out hope that we will come back again and again.