I am a Lenten lover. Quieter, reflective worship and hymns, more intentional listening for God, a simple yearning to touch the hem of Jesus’ cloak and be embraced by his light, the warmth of his love, his healing. During Lent, I seem able to sit in the presence of God and pray in a way that seems more like conversation, rather than the on-the-go, drive-thru prayers that often characterize my prayer life.
On-leave after a rather tumultuous Call, I am studying to be certified as a Spiritual Director/Companion/Midwife, feeling a strong call to that ministry; one which has been affirmed by others. I absolutely love it.
On a personal retreat, entering a period of meditation, I decide that on a mental mountain top there would be few distractions, nowhere to go, no tyranny of the urgent calling me away, all making it easier to listen for God -- just like Jesus did.
But there seems to be an obvious “no” to that, and I find myself, instead (in my imagination, or “in the Spirit”?) in a crude cell. The cell is unusual in that it is at street level in an ancient town on a narrow, busy, dirt street with people walking by. One entire wall of the cell is iron bars facing the street like a shop window. I can see everyone. They can see me.
“Why am I here? Why is my freedom being restrained in this cell?”
“You are in bondage to sin and cannot free yourself.
“Of course. In bondage not only by my own sin, but by the sins of others. I understand that, and I am looking to my spirituality classes to set me free.”
“No you do not understand. Your spirituality classes will not free you. Only I can free you.”
There it is -- the reason I’m a Lenten lover. These weeks of introspection, of deep realization that we are, truly, imprisoned by sin and unable to free ourselves -- all of that may seem, at a glance, shadowy and depressing. No wonder we want to hurry to Easter baskets and cuddly bunnies and egg hunts in an effort to comfort ourselves. More study, working harder and longer, 24/7/365 availability not only doesn’t free us, it may in fact restrain even more our freedom to not only know the doctrine, but to experience “Only I can free you.”
And oh my, what glory then to receive the Easter news: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen!” The real miracle is not that Jesus/God freed himself from bondage. That probably wasn’t too challenging for the Creator of all life. The real miracle is that he frees us, over and over and over again. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.