Here we are in the midst of the Lenten wilderness, with the weather vacillating between winter and spring, and the tender new birth of Easter’s resurrection hovering in the wings. Many of the metaphors we carry, perhaps unconsciously, in Lent come from images of dryness. They start with the desert of Jesus’ temptation and move into some sort of withholding, from giving something up for the season. And it is in the parched places where we become aware of our deep yearning for the living water Jesus offers, the wellspring of love flowing into our lives and the world, with healing and new birth.
I recall a conversation several colleagues and I had early on in my ministry: that very often our sense of people’s experience—our own included—wasn’t a sense of thirst or wilderness, but of saturation. Many, although certainly not all, feel fairly ‘full up’ to overflowing with responsibilities, demands, activities and information. Perhaps you feel that way in your own life, more like a wet sponge, simply unable to take in anything else no matter how life-giving.
Take a moment and ask yourself whether you are aware of a hunger or thirst, a yearning even if you’re not sure exactly for what at this moment. Or, whether you are full up and carrying too much. I invite you to take a moment to simply be aware, asking yourself what it is you need or desire from God, from the One who loves you more than you could ask or imagine. I invite you to allow yourself to release whatever it is you are carrying and to give yourself permission to feel some lack, some desire, some need. I don’t know about you, but I think it takes a lot of courage to create room for it.
The collect for this past Sunday is a beautiful one, drawing upon the story of the woman at the well and of all these moving Lenten stories in the Gospel of John. The prayer articulates so much of what is at the heart of being Christian, of being in relationship with the Living God:
Enduring presence, goal and guide, you go before and await our coming. Only our thirst compels us beyond complaint to conversation, beyond rejection to relation. Pour your love into our hearts that, refreshed and renewed, we may invite others to the living water given to us in Jesus Christ our Lord.
What image of God do you find in this collect? Does it resonate with the one you carry within you? Notice, too, that the collect isn’t simply providing us with something we need in our lives—although it is absolutely doing that—it is also quite clearly drawing something forth from us—a conversion, a transformation and a mission that changes us and at the same time flows out from us a powerful new way.
What is it that we expect from our life in Christ? Perhaps it’s time we expect more out of Lent. And, in turn, have more expected from us. But not just one more layer of external expectation, rather a whole new creation that takes root within, blossoming with all the pull-out-all-the-stops gorgeousness of full blown spring? May it be so with you and with me.
Hope to see you Sunday,