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What thoughts floating around your head cause you to sink into a kind of low-grade, chronic hell? And keep you from being somewhat less than a living sacrifice to God?
It’s awkward to imagine the Holy One in underwear. But like tighty-whities, the Lenten journey is mostly a journey of subtraction, paring down, and clinging to nothing but God.
I imagine God speaking plainly: ‘I could walk out right now and leave you cringing in your corner. But I am going to surprise you. I am going to give you another chance.’
Traveling light is a young person’s game. Everything seems disposable when you’ve got time to replace it.
Any evaluation of a person without regard for that person’s core values is incomplete. Incomplete assessments of who people are, beyond what they possess, leads us into battles.
Honestly? Sometimes I wonder if the whole Lenten self-examination thing doesn’t spur us (read: me) toward endless naval gazing and even greater self-centeredness.
Whatever it takes to wake me, Holy One, I will give you thanks. By coax or by curse, lead me once more to the trouble and beauty of being fully alive in your justice and joy.
Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. - Ephesians 4:26-27
Anger at injustice is not the same as hatred, and many of us are justifiably angry as we watch our own and others’ rights, dignity, and even lives continually robbed by the powers that be.
Still, anger can calcify into hatred. How do we tell which is which?
Hatred seeks to dehumanize. It might lead one person to think of another not as fellow child of God, but as an animal, an insect, an alien, a thing—making it easier to malign, mistreat or even kill them.
But a healthy and holy anger fully sees the other’s humanity and divinity, and seeks to call them to account for it. We get angry when we see others falling short of what God has made all of us to be.
Paul seems to be saying that anger is inevitable—and even generative, in the right ways. Anger at injustice can spark movements, free captives, fuel courage for heroic acts in desperate moments. But even a healthy and holy anger can become embittered into hatred if left unchallenged by a renewing of one's mind.
When we go to sleep, short-term memory converts into long-term memory. I wonder if Paul knew this thousands of years before the neuroscientists did, when he wrote that we shouldn’t go to sleep angry? Perhaps the same sleep function encodes short-term anger into long-term hatred, and we owe it to ourselves, and our opponents, to shed our anger every night before bed.
God, help me to lay down the burden of all of my angers, righteous and unrighteous, when my head hits the pillow each night, so that I might wake unburdened, refreshed and ready to hope for the best in every human I meet. Amen.
Molly Baskette is Senior Minister of First Congregational Church UCC in Berkeley, California, and the author of the best-selling Real Good Church, Standing Naked Before God, and her newest baby, Bless This Mess: A Modern Guide to Faith and Parenting in a Chaotic World.
No matter how much you know, or how often you wash, don’t you feel foreboding? So summon empathy from that quavering place where we all feel afraid and just be kind.
Lent is about both emptying ourselves and offering ourselves as empty vessels. Lent is an opportunity to God to fill up our longing for love, justice, and shalom.