I arrive breathless and unprepared, this Lenten season.
Lent blows in like a spring storm. And I have given no serious thought to how I will properly observe the season.
You know, what meaningful things I can do to name my many forms of sin.
Or what I can do to heal the wounds of injustice in my world.
Or how I can participate with Jesus in those costly ways of lavishing God’s love like balm upon a broken world.
My thoughts drift. Truth be told, my thoughts feel a little gauzy, a little too safe.
And now, like a spring storm, a prayer blows across the open expanse of soul, the one honest prayer that reframes everything. The prayer?
Lord Jesus, how do You desire to observe this Lenten season through me?
Before I can bar the door and board up the windows of the soul the prayer blows in, displaces all lesser notions, and claims its rightful place.
Lord Jesus, how do You—emphasis on “You”—desire (and yes, “desire” is a love word) … How do You desire to observe Lent through me?
I am speaking of Lent 2017, in this complex twenty-first century world that seems so fragile, so careening, so furiously groping for sure footing and moral voice. This Lenten season.
I know that I do not need to come up with an answer. Yet instinctively I brace myself for what the Lord has in mind.
The Lord indeed will enter his temple and possess it in ways that will disarm me, convict me, and break me open.
So I sit, this morning, eating my oatmeal and reading my newspaper. I read my paper online. I am pretty good at clicking my way through the stories. Front page, section A, click click click.
Except here, on page A7, I see an image that makes me put down my bowl of oatmeal. I lean in closer to the screen. My heart breaks. Anger rises up.
I am seeing an image of the malnourished flesh and bones of a nine-month-old Somali infant. I can count his little ribs, nearly poking through his skin. His enormous eyes gaze into middle space. His little arms, one raised, look like the arms of an infant asleep in the womb.
His mother fights back tears. She is one of thousands of Somalis in the overcrowded feeding center in Mogadishu. She has no milk, no means to feed her child.
The past three rainy seasons never arrived, collapsing all hopes of a harvest.
“We were not able to get anything to eat, not even water,” she tells the reporter. “The environment is so parched.”
I read the little boy’s name: Ali Hassan.
He has the wrong name, I think to myself.
Borders into places that could offer refuge, nourishment, and a chance at life are closed or closing fast to people with a name like his.
There are many reasons why rainy seasons never come, why crops fail, why vast populations undergo famine—enforced extreme fasting—and heartbreak and anxiety and the urgency to flee.
In my corner of the world, where many of us have enough and more than enough, with expanding waistlines and crammed garages and bulging storage units, it is so easy to pull up the drawbridge, pull down the shades, turn up the volume and drown out the cries of the poor.
Maybe that’s not my response. But am I OK with policies made in my name that shut out life in its most fragile forms?
And right now, before me, on page A7, is a sacred icon of the image of Christ, who did not deem equality with God as some special privilege.
Complete identification with the most poor, the most powerless, the most marginalized, abandoned, and despised—this is the preferred way of the One who desires to observe this Lenten season through me.
Mary Sharon Moore writes and speaks nationwide on
the nature of God’s calling in our times.