Sunday, April 8, 2012

Forty Days

"Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home." ~ Matsuo Basho

This was Easter weekend, and that means Lent is over. The long fast is done, today was the feast day and Christians everywhere celebrated a risen Christ. The folks who gave up coffee or chocolate or meat or sex can now enjoy the breaking of the fast and the end of abstinence. Those who took up a holy practice such as prayer or servanthood can lay it back down if they so choose. For the past few years, I have not chosen physical abstinence for Lent, but emotional or spiritual abstinence. This year, I chose to give up lying to myself.

If I had known how hard, how scary, how life-changing it would turn out to be, I never would have had the courage to give up self-deception. But I am fond of saying to myself and my daughters that we should always do what we are most afraid to do. So I spent the last 40 days telling myself the truth about my life, about my relationships, about my needs. About myself. Ever heard that saying, "the truth hurts?"

It does. Forty days of honesty has been like lancing a new, infected wound every day. It has meant seemingly endless self-examination. It has meant admitting that I need help healing from my PTSD. It has meant facing the unhappiness I've been feeling and mining for its source. It has meant releasing someone from my life without knowing that the person would be safe or happy or healed. It has meant acknowledging the long-lasting guilt I carry for the dissolution of my marriage and giving that resentment and hurt to God in a ceremony of smoke-and-fire carried out a thousand miles away. It has meant admitting that my own foolish pride keeps me from telling God my wants and my hurts and accepting that his forgiveness is more important than my own.

Now Lent is over. Easter is here. Christ is risen and the stone is rolled away. I can go back to my old way of coping; I could turn from the cold truth and seek sanctuary in the many warm, comfortable lies in which I have wrapped myself for so long. In a way it seems safe, but wouldn't it be like turning around and picking up the shroud, walking back into the darkness of the tomb? The purpose of Lent isn't only in sacrifice - the purpose is that we rid ourselves of that which keeps us from being in relationship with God. The purpose is that we emerge on the other side of the wilderness as different people; honed, tempered, with our wounds drained and healed, and our souls so intertwined with Christ that we do not know where we end and he begins. I stand on the edge with so much possibility before me and all the past dark behind me, and I know which way my feet should - must - take me.

Life lies ahead, not behind.

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