Tuesday, February 20, 2007

And so it begins...

As Lent began last year, I was spiraling out of control. To the outside world, I may have looked a little more preoccupied than usual, but you wouldn't have known that I was coming apart at the seams.

I had dropped 20 lbs. and it had been months since I had really slept. The marriage that had been limping along for years had died, and, to protect my two young children, I was trying my damnedest to carry the rotting corpse by myself.

My prayers were anguished cries of "Help me, dear God...please help me." I couldn't pray anything else and I couldn't see any way out but death. I was so very, very tired, and death offered what I couldn't seem to find in life---the promise of rest.

But apparently God had other plans for me, because another Lenten season has rolled around, and I am still here. Deo gratias.

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I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian church that knew nothing of Lent---I'm sure because it smacked of Catholicism, and we all knew that those Mary-worshipping, anti-Christ-Pope-following Catholics were on the fast-track to Hell.

But when I was in college, I joined a sorority, and about 75% of my friends were Catholic. They introduced me to Lent, and I have blessed them for it ever since.

I love Lent. Love the fasting and the prayers. Love the ashes and the mindfulness and even the tears.

It's funny---conservatives frequently charge that liberals aren't willing to give anything up for Christ. I wait all year for a season in which to sacrifice my compulsions and vanities and burdens to the God who created me. To examine my life for the sins that infest it, and to vow to amend my life and to become the person God has called me to be.

I somehow doubt that I am the only progressive Christian who feels this way.

This year, I begin Lent with a new sadness. My beloved community of faith, the Episcopal Church, appears ready to sacrifice my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters on the altar of "unity" with those who refuse to grant even their humanity, much less that they are beloved of God.

I have spent the last couple of years arguing that we must find a way to stay together with those who oppose full inclusion for GLBT people---that we would be better witnesses to the saving love of Jesus Christ if we did so.

But, once again, I am very, very tired.

Tired of explaining---over, and over, and over---why I believe God is calling us into love and inclusion. Tired of watching those I love become the sacrificial lambs for a gospel that brings good news only to the already-privileged. Tired of my anger and my disappointment and the pain that so many of us feel at being asked, once again, to wait for justice and to forego mercy in order to placate the church's unconverted Sauls.

In this Lenten season, I will offer my anger and disillusionment to God. I know God can heal those things, because I wouldn't be here to write this if He could not.

I will offer my life and my labor, in the hope that I can help to usher in God's kingdom, here and now.

And I will thank God for Lent. For the chance to draw near to His presence, and to lay my burdens at the foot of His cross. For the opportunity to examine my life and amend it, in the hopes of becoming more like Jesus (however remote that possibility might seem...).

And for the fact that, this time last year, God threw a lifeline to me and gave me another chance to live, to know God's infinite love, and to praise the name of the One who creates, redeems, and sustains.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us, but if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:8, 9