Lent: what matters more...what matters most

I arrived back in San Francisco on Monday night, where my housemates greeted me with flowers, a tall glass of homemade kombucha, and three months of unopened mail they've been saving up for me.

Landing at San Francisco International airport was a strange experience. I'd imagined it a hundred times when I was in South Sudan, praying that nothing would happen to keep me from being able to come home. But actually arriving back home felt surreal.

As I sat at baggage claim waiting for my luggage that I'd schlepped half way around the world and back, I watched my fellow travelers hugging and laughing while all I could do was tear up at the memory of the patients I couldn't save in South Sudan. And I felt like the cheese that stands alone at the end of The Farmer In The Dell, a survivor of an actual, literal war zone.

I took a Lyft from the airport to my house, where I used my house key for the first time in three months. I slept in my familiar-but-somehow-unfamiliar bed. And yesterday, Mardi Gras, was not such a celebratory day since I spent it at the DMV renewing my driver's license that expired while I was away.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. It's a rainy, blustery day in San Francisco. The birds that are usually chirping in the lemon tree outside my bedroom window are silently sheltering from the rainstorm.

This morning I find myself wondering, "What does it mean to follow Jesus in the desert?", because I’m a little uncertain about what life holds for me now that I’m back from Africa. And wondering (and wandering) is what Lent is all about. It lasts for forty days because that's how long Jesus spent in the desert, fasting, resisting temptation, desiring something truer and deeper than the shallow things his temptor was offering him.

When Jesus entered the desert, I don't know if he knew where he was going. It wasn't the destination that mattered as much as the experience of deprivation digging a greater capacity for desire.

And maybe that's enough for now, I'm thinking now as I listen to the rain. Maybe it's enough to carve out the next forty days with the intention of listening to the still, soft voice of Love. Maybe it's enough to choose deprivation -- to give up something that costs and challenges me for the next six weeks -- to create more space for the deepest of all desires. Maybe it’s enough to endure the rainstorm because it instills a deeper hope in the rainbow promised at the end.

Maybe it's enough to pay attention together as the Spirit teaches us about what matters more...what matters most.

Sarah ThebargeComment