We're barely over a week into your existence and I'm already sick of you. Don't get me wrong. I love you and need you. You are a vital part of my spiritual journey. It is good for me to be reminded that I'm going to die. It is important for me to remember that I am a sinner. I need to focus on Jesus as he set his face towards Jerusalem. But I am sick of you.
I am sick of your wilderness. Whenever I hear someone talk about your wilderness, it sucks the life out of me. Not because it isn't true nor because it is not an apt metaphor. But it's a reminder. It's a reminder that I feel like I'm in a wilderness that started long before Ash Wednesday and I have no idea when it's going to end; probably not Easter. Maybe not even next Lent. I don't know.
The not knowing part is what is getting to me right now. Because I love the wilderness. There is a freedom to it. The wildness challenges me and breaks me down. God has spoken to me out here. The wilderness paints pictures that hang throughout my writing these last couple of years. I will probably love the wilderness again one day. But right now, at this moment, with its wrecked cars, sick children, and seemingly no daily task coming easily, it's a wasteland. And I don't see an end. I am too tired for that.
This wilderness into which I embarked to find out what God wanted me to do has been more expansive than my heart anticipated. I am still being lead and God knows that I have stubbornly gotten in the way more than a time or two. But the cloud by day that leads me feels like a vapor trail. I want somewhere to lay my head or, at the very least, something more substantive than a puff of white to show the way.
You see, Lent, your wilderness has a clock on it. 40 days. There is an exit sign hanging in the distance. And that is a luxury not found in the real wilderness. You enter the wild—perhaps unwittingly or perhaps with full intention—and you don't know when or if you'll get out. I want out. The limbo, the in-between space, the uncertainty is getting to me like dehydration. But again, I can't force my way out. This wilderness is not something that I can put on and take off at my leisure or when the church calendar gives me the all clear.
Can I force my way out? Lent, maybe you know. Resurrection is your end game. Is resurrection something that can be forced? Can I will my way to rebirth, to finding my calling? No. It can't be. If it was a matter of will then no one would be in the wilderness for long. We have to be led to resurrections and Promised Lands.
But then there has to be a reason to all of this, right? A lesson to be learned, a maturity to be grasped, something. I think to one of my father's favorite passages, "Those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength..." And I wait, but sometimes the wait seems to weaken more than it renews. Sometimes it feels like God may not show up. That God is too busy hanging out with better people, cooler people, or just some other people. Not me. The waiting just breaks you down.
And maybe the breaking down is the point. But, Lent, right now, it really sucks. To not feel like I am doing what I'm supposed to yet not being able to fully name it. I just want to curl up in a ball and sleep. And I feel bad saying that because, on the whole, there are people far, far worse off than me. But all your wilderness talk and a really crappy week has apparently spun me into an existential crisis. I needed to write something and figured I would write to you.
Lent, you're wonderful and I'm so glad that I have gotten to know you these last ten or so years. I hope I will not be sick of you the entire time this year. Maybe in the breaking down, I'll find some direction in all of your annoying wilderness talk. Or maybe not. I hope I do, but I guess we'll see.