Of Cardboard and Ashes

As I write this, I am in between spaces.

My family and I are in the thick of a transition period, waiting for two house closings and I am commuting back and forth between the place where my family dwells and the community to which we’ll soon return. Cardboard smells fill our house; boxes stacked and marked with Sharpies, like people in a grand airport whose flights have been delayed for at least 20 more days.

They grow weary of waiting as we grow weary of dodging them – they seem to dart out at our toes, begging for a stub here and there.

It is an odd spot to be in.

This week begins Lent – the season where we celebrate (in a manner of speaking) the forsaking of the things that we typically associate with life. We set aside some part of our desires in order to embrace suffering; to prepare ourselves to walk the stained path to crucifixion on Good Friday.

In a chuckle-worthy irony, Ash Wednesday (where we are reminded of our frailty and mortality) shares calendar space this year with Valentine’s Day (where we are reminded that we should love those we love more than one day a year, but…here’s a giant heart filled with candy you don’t like…)

Lent, in a way, is the moment between spaces.

I think about Jesus’ closest disciples who had come to know him as graceful, wise, and compassionate but also as unpredictable. They had heard cryptic, mysterious words from Jesus about his impending death but their lenses – their way of seeing the world – simply wouldn’t allow them to believe that he would really die.

They were growing to love the journey of walking with Jesus from place to place and learning about this brand new Kingdom that felt so close to their skin, like early dawn moisture softening their eyelashes.

In a moment, it evaporated. What was assumed and common disappeared after dinner, and with newly-clean feet (John 13) the disciples napped under an olive tree. All the while Jesus’ sweat burst capillaries as the reality of the road between “here” and “there” became quite clear.

The clean-footed disciples were suddenly surrounded by the familiar face of Judas and the shouting of soldiers, coming to eliminate the threat.

In that moment, everything was in the air. Everything became simultaneously impossible and possible, tragic and magic, prison and freedom.

You and I are in a moment between spaces. We are always becoming something. The reason this blog is called “becoming” is because it is the most common human experience. We are always becoming, transforming, evolving – the question is “What are we becoming?”

Which leads to a point of honesty: I am not handling my time in between very well right now.

I feel the distance of my family. I feel the stress that comes in moving, with various legal and economic realities hanging over our heads. This is the time when, of course, everything that could go wrong does.

The time when you snap verbally at the one you love the most.

The time when the temporary single parenting gig is intensified by the villainy of viruses.

The time where you wonder, “Is that 14 inches of snow on my roof problematic and what in the world is an ‘ice dam’?”

Becoming isn’t always pretty, and in fact this season of becoming for me is downright hideous.

Yet, there is a choice. Jesus had a choice in the time in between: “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass.” He could have hidden from crucifixion, from execution, from pain, but instead: “Not what I will, but let your will be done.”

In this Lenten season, we have a choice whether to fast or surrender something for the next 40 days or not.

In my transitional season, I have a choice whether to embrace and befriend the pain of distance and suspended routine and learn about my own diminished patience and let God sweetly bind the wounds I’ve created.

To be healed, slowly, less like miraculous and more like rehab – that is what spiritual formation in Christ is all about. It takes time in between.

What are the contours of your “time in between”? What are you being asked to choose this Lenten season – what are you being asked to lay down so that you can embrace the tension or pain of this “in between” time?

  • Are you being asked to fast a meal or a day so you can discover what Dallas Willard describes as “being sweet and strong even when you don’t get what you want”?
  • Are you being asked to give up social media so you might be engaged with a reality of skin, sweat, and presence?
  • Are you being asked to embrace a season without answers in your relationship crisis and in the meantime draw close to the curious Christ who has new questions for you to ask?

May you follow in the steps of Jesus, and when you find yourself in His suffering you may be delighted and surprised to also find yourself in his glory.