From Breakdown to Breakthrough: Reflections on Lent
“This is the Lentiest Lent we have ever lented” was one way I heard the 2020 Lenten season described. Many of us gathered on February 26th and started the season with an interactive Ash Wednesday service on our campus. We physically nailed our addictions to the cross; we wrote down ways we wanted to yield ourselves to God; and we received ashes on our foreheads with the phrase “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return” chanted over us. But then Lent seemed more intense than usual because everything around us came crashing to a halt…. the same week, ironically, that Ken preached a message entitled The Road to Brokenness. The whole world seemed broken in a way we had never experienced before, and we watched in horror as each state began posting statistics that contributed to a pandemic curve. We bundled some new rules with a couple of old hygiene habits and hunkered down while dark clouds physically hung over us for weeks with an ominous heaviness.
The first week or two I watched too much news and read too many statistics, all the while praying for protection over my family and friends. I became schooled in the virtual world and began to be open to the many possibilities for making connections and getting work done, all within the confines of my own home. “Zooming” with family, friends, and the church community became enjoyable. I moved quickly on the pendulum between fear and opportunity as I heard messages like “Faith over fear”, “God’s got this”, and “We’ll get through this!”, I stopped watching the news.
Then on March 26th I navigated the valley of fear once again as my mom was admitted to a hospital for a seizure, and I carefully counted 14 days, the incubation stage for the virus, after she was released. On Day 15 we breathed a sigh of relief.
Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:1-2
Easter finally came and the “Lentiest Lent I ever lented” was supposedly over. But it felt weird because the wilderness experience of social isolation wasn’t over and still continues to this day.
At around Day 30 of quarantine, I hit a wall. Maybe you can relate. I felt burdened as I tried to establish balance in my work and personal life, and I felt small, fearful, and helpless. And where was God? Why did He seem so silent when the virus hit so personally with Ginger and the entire Wallace/Bixby family (Ginger and Tom were pillars in our church)? We prayed and prayed for God’s mercies. And still death came.
It was at that point that I honestly believe I began, finally, to lay down the idols of false security and control that I was still holding on to. To borrow a phrase that I believe has its origins in AA, I began to say, “I can’t; God can; I think I’ll let Him.” I remember having to make this same admission when Mark went into cancer surgery five years ago, and obviously, many times since then.
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Ps. 73:25-26
From breakdown to breakthrough, the common word is “break”. What’s your road look like right now? What idols might He want to break in order for you to break free? Maybe your pendulum swings between fear, anxiety, and courage; maybe you’ve experienced safety, health, and financial uncertainty. Feelings tend to be amplified right now and that’s okay. Richard Rohr described two moments in life that matter: “One is when you know that your one and only life is absolutely valuable and alive. The other is when you know your life as presently lived, is entirely pointless and empty. You need both of them to keep you going in the same direction. The first such moment gives you energy and joy by connecting you with your ultimate Source and Ground. The second gives you limits and boundaries, and a proper humility, so that you keep seeking the Source and the Ground and not just your small self.”
“Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” God bless your broken, dusty road. As you seek Him, He will break up the hard soil and bring about a new harvest for His kingdom. In that we can have confidence. Repeat after me: “I can’t; God can; I think I’ll let Him.”
Be well, fellow pilgrims, be well.