Lent, the 40 days preceding Easter, is thought of, imagined, in various ways: a desert journey, a wilderness expedition, spring cleaning for the soul. This year, though, I have been thinking about Lent as more of a two-step dance, with God as our partner leading us in an infinity loop (figure 8) pattern.
The first loop leads us inwards—often through prayer, silence, or contemplation, but sometimes also through conversation with others. This can be an intimidating prospect—on some level I think we are all scared of what we might find if we start rooting around the darker parts of our being. Or we think we know what we will find and that frightens us. We all have things about us we want to hide, from others, from ourselves, from God. Things we think would make us unlovable. But the truth is that God already knows what is deep within us, God can already see into the dark places of our lives. So the only thing we are doing by not letting God lead us on this loop of the dance is keeping them in the dark which paradoxically gives them real power over us. The good news is that God loves us despite those dark places. And the good news is that, deep within, at the very core of our being, is the image of God. So the further inward we journey, the more we can understand our rootedness in God, the more the darkness recedes, and the more we find our true selves.
Which leads to the second loop of the dance—if the first move is inwards, then the second is inevitably outwards. More deeply connecting with God allows us to more deeply engage with the world around us, to see others as beloved of God, and to seek and serve the Christ in others. That connectedness helps us make the move from taking on a discipline for 40 days, to changing how we see the world and thus how we are in the world.
This two step is true of us as individuals and as communities of faith. The more we get to know each other, the more deeply rooted in community we become, the more fully we know God and the better able we are to turn outwards and serve those around us. That is what St. Peter’s is all about. Connecting to each other and to God, so that we can be Christ’s hands, heart, and feet in the world.
I know. It all sounds daunting. But the good news is we are not alone. We have each other for support and help along the way. And we have the company of God: the One who created us in love, who became one of us and knows what we experience intimately, and who lives, breathes, and moves within and among us as we journey.
“I invite you therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a Holy Lent”—in other words, let’s dance!