Lent is my favorite season, the season of repentance, fasting, and renewal. Is it appropriate to say that I love Lent? Shouldn’t this season of penance be difficult and uncomfortable?
The image I have of my soul during Lent is a dried out sponge, the kind that is hard and mangled, soaking up water until it is fresh and new and soft again. The season is filled with beautiful messages of God’s mercy, images of God’s arms outstretched. We hear God’s voice in the scriptures through the prophet Hosea: “I will lure her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.” At mass we sing, “Come back to me with all your heart…long have I waited for your coming home to me and living deeply our new life.”
This Lent, the Lord is saying to me, “You have lost the love you had at first.” It’s true. When I first became Catholic, God was seductive, and I was infatuated. Over time, those passionate, fiery feelings faded. And that is okay. That place, quieter and less shiny, is the place from which real love grows. This love is not based on loving the gifts the Lord gives, on loving him for what he does or how he makes me feel, but on loving who he is. What I can know of who he is.
“You have endurance and have suffered for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: you have lost the love you had at first. Realize how far you have fallen. Repent, and do the works you did at first.” – Revelation 2:3-5a
Still, there is wisdom here. In the scriptures, God calls us to do the works we did at first, not to feel the way we did at first. Just as we need to be attentive to keeping the spark in marriage, God is asking us to keep the romance alive.
I try to avoid using the word “conversion” to describe my journey to the Catholic Church. That somehow suggests that a conversion is a singular event, a one-time experience. In reality, the sponge of my soul is constantly becoming dried out and stiff. The journey of the spiritual life is not linear, but cyclical. Our call to conversion is continual. There will be dry times. The call is to return again and again to drink of his living water.
I love Lent. Lent, for me, is not a time to sit around in the mud looking longingly at the scraps the pigs are eating, ruminating on my sins. For me, Lent is a time to rest in the Father’s arms and know that I am home. My fasting and my prayers are not gestures aimed at earning God’s forgiveness; they are outward signs that I have turned back once again. They make space for me to accept his love.
So, what are the works I did at first? How did I behave when I was infatuated with God? I sought out ways to know him. Beyond personal prayer time, I spent time learning about him. I was attentive to his beauty through music. I got to know him through the community of his people. I gazed at his face in adoration.
I love Lent because it is an annual reminder to give my heart back to the one my soul loves. This Easter marks 10 years since my reception into the Church. Happy anniversary, God!
What do you do when you’re feeling spiritually dry? How do you fan the flames of faith?