As Lent begins, I offer a portion of my struggle to come into the light. What if, as I feared, the light of Christ is not a harsh, disinterested glare but the perfect light of dawn that gently transforms the shadows into peace?
Do any of you have a word for the year? I am not sure when this idea first gained popularity, but I have been discerning a special word for many years now. It is a word that may influence my decisions for the year and how I spend my time. It is a word that ideally comes through prayer and which shapes my goals and choices, trusting that God is using it to impart some portion of his will and grace.
My word for this year is transformation.
When I felt this word settle into my heart mid-way through January, I was both surprised and content. It felt right. YES, I said to the Lord, feeling both wary and excited. I longed to be transformed!! Transformation would mean healing, but it could also mean drastic change. It can bring beauty, but it can bring pain. I am still grieving so much, and I longed to learn to carry my grief with greater joy. I am trying to have no expectations, though. I will keep this word in my heart and in my prayer and yield to what it brings.
I opened my Lenten devotional yesterday in preparation for Ash Wednesday. The quote in the introduction came from the gospel of John:
“I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” (John 12:46) Sitting there in the chapel, I reflected on this passage through the lens of transformation.
Christ has come as a light to bring us out of the darkness. Light transforms every way I see myself, see God, and see the world. I will look totally different to myself when I step into the light.
Is this frightening? In a way that makes no sense, do I feel safer in the dark? In the dark, I can pretend I don’t have the parts I don’t want to see; my own flaws are shadowed and hidden even from myself. Do I convince myself I am “better” or “healed” when, in fact, I am just not seeing clearly in the darkness --the pores or wrinkles or blemishes not easily perceptible in the dusk?
I recognized as I meditated on these ideas, that when I thought of stepping out of darkness into the light, the image that first came to mind was that of being trapped by the Gestapo or the border patrol. I am caught by a stark, bright flood lamp that makes me need to cover my eyes and try to hide. WOW. It shocked me to realize that, despite my close relationship with the Lord, I am clearly afraid of something. I know I have sincerely tried to live in the light of Christ for many, many years, but there is more that needs to be healed and transformed. Maybe it is because something deep inside me has kept His light from penetrating completely. Maybe I have closed my eyes, choosing instead to accept the familiar lie of unworthiness in the darkness.
Whisper your truth into my heart, dear Jesus. The light of Christ is not being found out or exposed or naked. It is not shame or unworthiness or lies. It is choosing to step out of darkness with courage as a beloved child where my own true beauty is fully and finally revealed. What if THAT was the center of my Lenten journey? What if that is one meaning of transformation?
What if the light of Christ is not a harsh, disinterested glare but the perfect light of dawn that gently transforms the shadows into peace? The warm glow of late afternoon. The nurturing warmth of a perfect summer day. The crystalline sun which turns the flakes of blowing snow into glittery diamonds as they fall in the mountains.
This mission -- letting myself be loved – it is understanding and LIVING that the invitation we are offered is to embrace our true beauty. To let go of feeling like I will be “caught” and my shame exposed. The Lord is the lover of my soul and my best friend. I believe this in faith and have experienced it over and over. He longs for my freedom. He longs for YOUR freedom. The first step, the last step – EVERY step includes resting in the light of His love. Here. Now. We don’t have to wait for eternity. We don’t have to be afraid.
The reading from the gospel yesterday, the day before Lent, was this: “…Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid! You are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew10:28-31)
I love this so much. At a time when we could be getting some heavy hitting reminders about shaping up or preparing our penances, the Church whispers one of the most important truths of the gospel. The Lord is SO CLOSE. Close enough to see and count the hairs on our head. In this passage, Christ offers us intimacy, presence, love, affirmation, safety, worthiness… Don’t we all long for these?
This is the light we are invited to come into. The offer is transformation. You can be assured that He will be close and we will be held.
Let yourself be loved.