I came to Christ in the words of His temptation in the desert.
More specifically, I have never really known if it was a coming or a returning. I have never had the words to characterize the drunken, hormone fueled intoxication that was the lord over my adolescence. And to be honest, I would love for that to no longer be the thing that matters. The truth of it is that it was the moments in the desert that brought me here. That is the thing I can’t let go.
He stood up high, the way I like to. He saw it all beneath Him, and He could have jumped. He could have let Himself be rescued from all of it. He could have stayed there, atop the temple, and ruled it from up there. He could have gone down and turned the stones into bread. He could have put a fix on the problem and been the hero handing out sandwiches to strangers. But the fourth way is harder. It’s harder to go back into the darkness, and not be afraid. To live in the middle of the hurt and not give up. Every day. To be a brightness in the dark. And Jesus came down from the desert and walked among us. In the sadness, He became the brightness.
I read this in a new way, and I loved Jesus in a new way. It was the February I listened to The Bright Sadness by Charlie Hall until my CD player left it scratched up and skipping. I did the poverty simulation, and I cried at Prayer Awakening.There were kids and an egg hunt, and a blind lady on a bench who felt through the bag for her favorite candies. When I think about Lent, I think about all this together. I think about the way that my surprise party came right after Easter, and we danced on the suspension bridge and watched a wedding happen below us. And for me, that is what it means to rejoice. To be broken, to struggle, to fight your way home. To rest. To be known. There is pain for our brokenness, but at the same time there is hope.
And she told me I’ve made an idol out of the sadness. That sounds about right. But this…
This has not been a bright sadness. It has been dark and empty. I have embraced it, wanting a reason to be broken. Thinking that if I let myself be filled and happy I may have to stay here. Wanting someone to acknowledge the depth of my sacrifice. These are the temptations that have always been in the desert. This is not the way to enter Lent. There is nothing in the blackness. It always fascinated me to see the people with ashes on their foreheads. Ashes, where you can see them. This is what remains when the fire is gone. Like Israel, limping away from the place where he was Jacob and he wrestled with God. It’s a very public mourning, but I have been mourning the wrong things, while I turn a bored eye on my apathy and anger.
“Do you ever worry that you aren’t the best version of yourself?”
Yes. Because I’m not. I’m depressed and I drank bourbon in a church parking lot on Thursday. I made my mother cry today, and sometimes I wear the same pair of sweatpants three days in a row. And this year, the thing I need is to leave the gray, horizonless landscape that my brain has become. I think I shut down, because I was afraid it would hurt to try and fail. I was afraid I couldn’t hurt any more.
This is not abundant life. In the next 40 days, I’m going to into the desert. Walking in on purpose. Like Harry Potter, walking into the forest to peel the horcrux off of his soul. I’m letting the hurt happen, the ache happen. I’m facing the things that have made me afraid. I’m waking up the dead fragments of my soul.
And if it hurts, at least I will know I am alive again.
And maybe Easter will come, and I will sit again and look at the world from the way up high. Maybe I will see it all below me, and I will remember the joy of coming home. Jacob wrestled in the darkness, and the day broke, and he went home to his brother and his family. And he was welcome. And it was home again.
This Lent, I want to stay up through the darkness until I see the sun rise. And so I am entering into the darkness I have hidden from for so long. I am honest. I am sorry. I am ready to be whole again.