Lent kicks me around every year.
In the last two weeks - since Ash Wednesday - the president of my college has been fired for insisting on justice, a lone gunman barged into a lecture hall twenty minutes from my house to kill six students, and wildfires burned 1,000 acres around my family in Roanoke. Several friends have spent long days waiting on important and possibly crushing test results. My uncle had surgery. Several other friends have been seriously distraught about serious relationships. This week’s issue of the Christian Century features an article on the Church of the Brethren’s inability to provide its pastors with health insurance, an issue that I’ve been researching and that exemplifies the escalating breakdown of mutuality within the denomination. One roommate has cried on my couch for friends with terminal cancer, and today I spent an hour in the chapel with another, mourning the life of his friend killed yesterday in Iraq.
Like the Chicago cold and the month-old piles of icy snow filling my front yard, the sadness seems unrelenting and immovable.
Jesus asked his disciples to stay with him, to watch and pray. “Pay attention,” he said, and I’m trying. He set his face toward the cross, unflinchingly, meeting the brokenness of the world honestly and head-on. The disciples couldn’t stand it. They fell asleep at his feet, weary and exhausted, I assume, from all that their Lord required of them. I’d take a break, too, if I could. But the sadness keeps coming, wave upon wave, and I sit with friends and with myself, offer prayers, cry my own tears, and wonder how long it goes on.
I’ve talked with lifelong Chicagoans who assure me that this is the worst winter they’ve ever experienced, that it isn’t always like this, that spring will come eventually. But the lack of light is getting to them, too, affecting even these hardy Midwesterners so used to weathering the long lonely winters.
The radio weatherman says that today has been bitterly cold, and that tomorrow will be worse.