I struggle with Lent, which is natural. It’s meant to be challenging, the invitation is to conversion, to change. And we all know change, even the idea of it, is hard.
But I also struggle with Lent because I know that for those of us that walk each day living with mental illness of various types, this season provides specific challenges.
The reality of suicidal ideation already places death front and center. The last thing many of us needs is a reminder.
Low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness are not the result of a chosen path toward spiritual kenosis, but daily challenges to navigate.
For me, and perhaps for you, Lent offers the chance for a new perspective.
Rather than choosing to give up chocolate or pie or even cigarettes, I try to instead give up all that keeps me from living fully: crippling self-doubt, painful memories, fears and insecurities about the future, toxic relationships.
But—and this is important—I also remind myself that some, if not many, of these things are out of my control, symptoms of chronic illness rather than failures on my part.
Some things we can let go of, some things we can’t. Sometimes I can choose gratitude, some days all I can do is drink my coffee and put on my shoes and do the best I can.
Lent is a time to be reminded that it’s all part of the journey.
These days of Holy Week remind us not only of Jesus’ journey from death to new life but our own. Together, we walk through the many challenges of our lives mindful of the hope that Easter brings, and we do so amid a community of people walking the same path. Outside of the walls of our home or parish, we find growing division, and many people experiencing pain. This season prepares us to walk with Jesus into Jerusalem, through the streets to the cross and the tomb, and listen for the call to bring the hope of resurrection to a world in need.
More than anything, Lent reminds us of our humanity. To say that “we are dust” is not to say that we are dirt. It is a call to embrace who we are, to connect with others who share in the messiness, and to seek out our loving Creator, ever more mindful of that Creator’s invitation to be embraced by love, understanding, and life-giving water to stymy our dustiness.