by Father March Goldasich
“…the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss.”
That’s the phrase that I always listen for in the first reading from the Book of Genesis that’s proclaimed at the Easter Vigil each year. I feel like that phrase should be read on Ash Wednesday because it summarizes exactly what I imagine the season of Lent to be.
In that story of creation, God begins the process of bringing order to chaos. And the first thing that God does is to create light. These 40 days of Lent, which start this coming Wednesday, are all about bringing order to the chaos that so often rules our lives.
The penitential practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving give us an opportunity to step back from our usually manic pace to take stock of where we are in life and where we’re heading. Lent shines a light on our hearts, which sometimes look like a “formless wasteland,” due to sin and neglect.
Our lives get fractured as the years go on. The older we get, the more chaotic things seem to be. Lent comes to the rescue, to heal us and put us again back on the right track.
The chaos that we experience may be the unrelenting car pools, chauffeuring kids from one commitment to another, without a moment to spare in between. Our chaos may take the form of a home overrun with possessions, a place so cluttered that it is no longer a haven of rest from the world. The chaos may come from worrying about finances, an ever-growing to-do list or grades, all robbing us of the ability to see the good things already present around us.
The chaos may come from brooding over past sins and mistakes. Our chaos may take the form of poor eating habits or grabbing food on the run, which can lead to weight problems, illness and lethargy. The chaos may be the result of never taking time to pray, to develop a friendship with God, which, in turn, makes life a constantly disjointed ordeal.
Whatever our particular chaos, Lent is there as a soothing remedy that promises order and serenity. It helps us regain control of our schedules, purge unwanted and unneeded items from our homes, choose trust in God over worry, take time for exercise, healthier eating and caring for our bodies, and make time with God the priority of our day and week.
But a person has to give Lent a chance to “do its thing.”
Sadly, many of us are so used to the chaos that we forget there is a much better way of living. If you read this column regularly, you know a favorite book of mine is “1001 Illustrations That Connect. “ One of its editors is Craig Brian Larson, who wrote the following story:
“On my desk, I like to display, on a bookstand, the kind of gift books you put on the coffee table — those filled with professional photos of nature or tourist destinations. My current book is “America’s Spectacular National Parks,” by Michael Duchemin. For several days, I’ve had the book opened to a photo of the Grand Teton Mountains, an extra-wide photo that filled the left page and crosses the fold to take up half of the right. It is a majestic display of deep blue sky; rugged, gray, snow-capped mountains; and a calm lake in the foreground.
“This morning, I decided to turn the page to the next photo and, as I did, I discovered that I had missed something important. The right page of the Grand Tetons photo was an extra-long page folded over. When I opened it up, it added some 16 inches to the width of the photo, making the Grand Tetons even grander.
“The Christian life has unfolding moments like that, when we discover there is much more to God and his kingdom than we know, much more to his purpose for us than we imagined. . . . Again and again in the Bible, when God met people, he opened a glorious page for them that had previously been folded.”
This Lent, let God bring order to the chaos in your life. Let these 40 days open up a “glorious page” that you never imaged was there.
Christian writer Max Lucado says it beautifully: “The meaning of life. The wasted years of life. The poor choices of life. God answers the mess of life with one word: grace.”
May you welcome a mess of that grace this Lent.