Each year, I struggle with Lent. Not in the usual way, like “I really can’t wait to eat chocolate again,” but in the “I’m trying to keep my head above water and I don’t want to come to your darkness party” way.
I understand the importance of Lent theologically and liturgically. I know humans are quick to look away from suffering and that we need to spend some time contemplating our own sinfulness and Christ’s life given for us. Nonetheless, as a person who has struggled with depression, I feel protective of myself when Lent sometimes feels like reinforcement of our unworthiness. Focusing on the darkness of Gethsemane can be useful, but not if the intent is to steer us toward complete despair. What if we already spend a lot of time fighting that darkness? Should some of us check with mental health professionals before engaging in Lent?
I tiptoe around Lent; I keep my eye on it and I don’t let it take over my heart completely. I made the choice a decade ago to add spiritual practices instead of giving things up for Lent. This year, my practice was to choose hope over fear. Every single day, I wanted to cozy up with hope and shut the door in fear’s face. The hymn “Live Into Hope” was my planned theme song.
This past Maundy Thursday, I was nursing a tender heart. I felt like my antidepressant had stopped working. I’d been through this before when I’d had to switch from name brand to generic and it felt like that all over again. So, I’d spent a chunk of Thursday morning on the phone with the pharmacy, insurance company and doctor’s office trying to figure out a loophole to get me back on medicine that worked. I’d read through the protocol on our insurance’s website and found manufacturer’s coupons in order to avoid paying $1600 a month for my medicine. By the end of the day, I’d switched medicines and was hopeful that this new one would lift my depression. (It did. It really helped. I don’t want to you to worry about me. My parents and my husband have that covered.)
This was the state of my heart and mind that I needed to drag into a service about brokenness. So, I decided to attend the church where my dear friend is the pastor. In my bones, I knew that she would speak the truth about Christ’s betrayal without taking us deeper into the darkness than was wise. She has known darkness, but is remarkable in her ability to always rely on God’s grace to steer her back to hope.
I was right to trust her with my heart. In the service, I was reminded that I wasn’t the only broken one. I was reminded that Christ modeled for us how to serve one another with humility and grace. I was reminded that Maundy Thursday was rooted in God’s love for us.
As I write this, my heart is lighter and my spirit is more hopeful. Today is Holy Saturday, that day of waiting that I’ve come to find meaningful and lovely. On the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter, I feel like I’m walking around with a secret. I want to stop people in the grocery store and say, “You won’t believe how this whole Jesus story is going to end. It’s going to blow your mind.” I feel like we’re all reading the same amazing book and I can’t wait for us to be able to talk about the ending. I want to wear a t-shirt with Anne Lamotte’s assurance that “Grace always bats last.”
Lent can feel too heavy and Easter can feel too bombastic, but Holy Saturday feels just right to me. Many of us spend a lot of our time and energy as disciples in that Holy Saturday kind of anticipation. It’s where I’ve experienced community at its truest and most loving; those holy times of waiting with others exposes our vulnerability and makes life so sweet.
Holy Saturday is waiting to hear if the fertility treatments worked and you will finally be parents. Holy Saturday is hoping that your loved one in rehab will really turn the corner this time. Holy Saturday is praying that the cancer hasn’t spread to the lymph nodes, but friends and family are already mobilizing, in case chemo is necessary. Holy Saturday is holding your breath that the marriage can be resurrected. Holy Saturday is when families take foster children into their homes in order to love them back to wholeness. Holy Saturday is knowing that “Love Wins” even when it looks pretty bad out there. Holy Saturday is that bridge between the brokenness and the joy.
Most of us don’t spend our lives in the drama of the crucifixion or the glory of the resurrection. Most of us spend our lives in those ordinary waiting spaces, on that bridge between suffering and hope. Since we’re all waiting, maybe we could wait together. It’s so much sweeter on the bridge when we wait together.