It’s Easter Monday. The sun is finally out, it’s beautiful outside, and I find myself reflecting and wondering what’s next. Passed is the excitement of sunrise and worship services, Easter lilies, egg hunts, Easter baskets, processionals, and the resurrection of Jesus. The long, hard road of the Lenten journey reached it’s end in joyful celebration. What’s next?
The Lenten journey is not one that I particularly enjoy, but it is one that I’ve sought to actively participate in since I was a child. I remember fasting on Wednesday during lunch with my dad. We placed my lunch money in a little white church bank that was donated to some charity at the end of Lent. I remember giving up candy and soda and social media all in an attempt to draw closer to Jesus.
This year I chose to continue to give up alcohol. Not drinking was a decision I made at the beginning of 2016. I made it not because I feared being an alcoholic, but because I honestly acknowledged how much space it was taking up in my life and in my wallet. Alcohol became an easy go to at the end of a hard day (or even a good day). A glass of wine. A beer. Sometimes very little, and sometimes too much. All of it taking up too much space. There wasn’t room for anything else.
I also attempted to give away 40 things that I own, one for each day of the Lenten journey. I’m not sure I gave away exactly 40 items but I came pretty darn close. Now at the end of 40 days I keep seeing things that I don’t need. I’ve always wanted to live in a space that was filled with books, travel souvenirs, and photos of my family and friends. A space that was a representation of relationship; of living life with others. Trinkets, clothes-stuff-had clouded that space. It was suffocating. It had overtaken the space that I had to be filled with relationships.
I didn’t just give something up for Lent, I also dove into a Lenten study called Redeemed from Sacred Holidays. My story, my voice is one that I’ve never been confident in sharing with another without a deep relationship with the person. The journey through Redeemed (along with other important words and people) encouraged me that I had something to say. That my story mattered. As I exposed the lies told to me by myself and others, I created space for my story to be redeemed. Correction, I created space to remember that my story has already been redeemed-I simply needed the space to claim it for myself.
Yet, this year, as my Lenten practices draw to a close, I find that once again I feel no closer to Jesus than I was 40 days ago. But what I have realized is that there is now space. There is space to breathe deeply. There are parts of my life-physical, spiritual, and emotional-that are now free, unoccupied, open. There is now space for Jesus.
So what’s next? Next is Easter. Next is breathing in the beauty and grace of the resurrection story. Easter is not a day. It is a season. My Lenten journey created space for Easter. It created space for a new journey. Space to continue to celebrate. Space to continue the formation and growth of my faith. Space to ponder my gifts, my story. Space to grow already established relationships and cultivate new ones. It’s a hard truth to claim that I feel no closer to Jesus, but now I understand that I needed to do something else. I needed to create space for Jesus to be near me.