the story room

Friday, February 25, 2005

As promised: Some thoughts on Lent

Last year, for my Life of Prayer class, I had to journal every single day. I was flipping through that journal earlier today, and found an entry I wrote almost a year ago. Looking back to it now, it puts a new spin on my understanding of Lent:

"There's something about hearing people breathing that really affects me. And it's weird - sometimes I love it,a nd sometimes it really bothers me. But it always affects me.

"I remember when I was little, probably about three or four years old, and my mom would sleep in my bed with me. Sometimes I would lay my head on her chest and listen to her heartbeat and her breath. But even as young as I was, this was never a comfort to me. In fact, it really bothered me. It bothered me so much that I'm still affected by it. And when I was young, I knew exactly why it bothered me, too. It reminded me of how fragile life is. I didn't like hearing my mom breathe because she's the person who, more than anyone else, brings strength to my life. It always unsettled me to feel her weakness.

"Sometimes I wonder why God designed us to breathe. Well, for one, God put His breath in us - the breath of Life. It reminds me that life can never come from myself. I take a breath every few seconds, and can go no more than a couple minutes without it. Sometimes I'm very aware of my breath; most times, I don't even think about it.

"But I need air. I can't see it, and I usually don't feel or smell or hear it. I almost never taste it. But I need it. My life depends on air, coming in and out of my lungs. When I think about breathing, I realize that every single second, I'm dependent on something that I could never produce. Without air, I'll die.

"Two Wednesdays ago, we laid hands on each other at our prayer meeting. While I was concentrating on the words, I was also focusing on my hands, on each of my friends. One thing that struck me was that when my hands were on their backs, I could feel them breathing. And I was acutely aware of my connection to them. It reminded me of how weak we were, but how we were in God's presence.

"I know that probably sounds funny...but it's true. I think it draws me to people because it reminds me of how alike we are. We're all so different, but we're made of the same stuff. We're frail; we need air. More than that, we need Christ, who breathes that Life into us.

"I breathe. My mom breathes. Those who have left me and those who love me are breathing right now. So are you.

"When I think of it, I can't help but be drawn to my brothers and sisters...and to the God who gives us life and holds everything together."

That's part of what Lent's about, I think - recognizing how utterly dependent we are on Christ. We're so weak...we can't even sustain our own lives. And we're all brothers and sisters, in this together. In Lent, as I recognize both the world's frailty and my own, I'm drawn to long for the One who sustains us, makes us whole, and invites us to share in this incredible Life.


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