trigger warning: mention of abuse
I’ve been pondering Lent this year, and I’ve been praying about it, about how I will live it. What is needed this year?
What I found is that God wants me to celebrate. To celebrate and savour the love God has for me, to receive and enjoy her love as fully as I can.
That’s what it will be about. Celebrating the ‘us’ of God and me, this relationship, that for me is beyond all other relationships. Lent will be about this love, and it will be for healing.
Read on, if you can, and trust me a little with this.
For some, the notion of celebrating in Lent might seem ridiculous and wholly inappropriate and just ‘not right’. After all, the general idea is that Lent is about repentance, and about Christ’s way to the cross and his suffering.
Yes, it is about that. I agree.
But surely, it is also true that we all still need to find our own way to live that as we need to, as is right for us. The way that most serves our relationship with God, ourselves and others.
My way to live Lent flows from the realities of where I am in my life, and what has taken me here to begin with. If you’ve read past posts on my blog, you’ll know some of that.
My relationship with my family is very difficult, and I’ve had a very deep experience of broken family relationships in the last months especially – the experience of telling truths nobody wants to hear in regards to past abuse in the family.
I spoke out about the ongoing danger of others being abused (this, too, is part of becoming whole and restoring integrity), and was then faced with fury and pain and guilt trips in response. I fully expected this kind of reaction, after having disclosed the abuse years ago and being met with a profoundly hurtful lack of compassion and support ever since.
I heard a talk by Jurgen Moltmann recently where he speaks of the need to have room in liturgy not just for the restoration of those who have committed injustices, but also for those who have fallen victim to them.
So if Lent is about repentance, tell me, what does repentance mean for the victims of injustice?
Repentance is “a change of mind and heart”.
When Jesus says, “Repent!”, he follows it with, “And believe in the good news!”
That I ‘repent’ now means to me that I turn away from the lack of care and the lack of compassion I have experienced in my family, away from the hurt they have caused me (and are causing me), and that I turn towards the love God has for me, towards healing and restoration. It means that I focus on the wholeness and tenderness and love that my relationship with God offers me.
How my family treats me has a clear effect on how I feel about myself. I’ve learned a lot about this in the last years. I’ve learned about how my father’s abusive behaviour lowered my sense of self-worth, how it harmed my ability to love and honour myself, and that I didn’t really know what it feels like to be loved and honoured in healthy relationships. God has been my way out of that, my way forward into increasing health, into integrity and wholeness.
In stark contrast to my family, God takes delight in me. God honours me. While my family invests huge amounts of energy in protecting the abuser and very little in supporting me or in preventing further abuse, God loves me without condition, and without force or manipulation. God respects my boundaries, God is patient, and kind, and understanding, and having this experience, this relationship, has been a huge part of the progress I have made until now in my recovery.
And now, God wants to celebrate with me who I am, and how far I’ve come. God wants to celebrate with me our relationship, our love.
This is the most precious thing I have. God is the One closest to my heart.
This is what Lent will be about – spending time with God, my Beloved.
God gives me room to grieve and to sorrow as I need to as well, so I can integrate my experiences. So I can heal.
This is the repentance I need, this is the repentance that is right and just for me.
This is me ‘changing my mind’, by turning towards the face of God who looks at me with love – and by turning away from those who can’t see me clearly through their anger and pain and fear.
I can learn to see myself in a new way through God’s eyes. I can learn anew that I am loved, and worthy of being loved, that I am whole and beautiful in God’s eyes, that I am blessed and that my life is blessed. I can learn in the presence of God’s love that I am good, and that my family’s attitude towards me does not represent the truth of who I am.
So, taking Lent as a time to ‘celebrate’ may not make sense to others, it may seem like a superficial, foolish or ‘unholy’ thing to do, but I know what it means for me, and that, for me, it is a deep and true decision and something that God calls me into.
I am sure I will share some of my Lent experience here in the next weeks. For now, I pray for all of us for whom Lent is an important, deep and valued time in our year. Grace and blessings be on you and me in the time ahead.
God will take delight in you,
and in her love she will give you new life.
She will sing and be joyful over you,
as joyful as people at a festival.