How can it be the end of March already?! How can it be that Spring is upon us, that the semester is more than halfway gone and that we’re three weeks into the season of Lent? Every year I watch as the calendar barrels on relentlessly while I wonder sheepishly, where has the time gone? I find I’m never ready for Lent to begin, let alone to end. I want to prepare myself for the season, get my spiritual house in order, do some sort of deep cleanse. Before too long, I have the sad and stark realization: I’m missing out…again!
Cue flashback sequence music:
When I was a kid my stomach would get all tied up in knots when birthday party invitations would arrive in the mail. For some reason, roller-skating parties were very popular where I lived, and I grew up with this irrational fear of the roller-rink.
For weeks before the party I would be overcome with thoughts and fears of falling down; of being run over by other more graceful skaters; of my precious fingers pinned beneath the wheels of others who circled around and around to the soundtrack of bad music and poor lighting, all while I lay helpless at their feet. Everyone else at these parties was agile, fast, and having a good time. I was the opposite, spending much of my time hugging the walls of the rink and watching my friends from the safety of the birthday party table.
There was always one moment during those parties, however, when I would throw caution to the wind and venture out onto the rink to join in the fun. The familiar music of the “Hokey Pokey” would begin to emanate from the speakers hanging overhead and the rink was transformed from a whirlwind track to a large, relatively immobile circle under the hanging disco ball (this was, obviously, a pretty classy place.) You know the “Hokey Pokey” –You put your right hand in, you put your right hand out. You put your right hand in and you shake it all about. You do the Hokey Pokey and you turn yourself around; that’s what it’s all about.
I loved the “Hokey Pokey.”
It was then that I would let go of my fears and forget about falling, getting run over, or losing my fingers. In those few moments I relaxed and enjoyed the party around me, no longer mindful of my own insecurities and perceived failures. When it came to skating the question always lingered: why can’t I do this well? But in those disco-ball-lighted-hokey-pokey moments I became mindful of the laughter and good will that surrounded me. And, for a moment, I had fun.
After the song ended I would gingerly skate back to my familiar wall, back with my fears and my self-consciousness, but for those few minutes I had enjoyed myself. In those moments, I had tasted a joy that was free of fear. I had, quite literally, put my whole self in.
During Lent the fear of my own insecurities, perceived failings, and sense of my own sinfulness can keep me at the edge of the season, clinging helplessly to the walls and unable to know joy until I have reached some level of readiness, whatever that is. As these days fly by, I try to remind myself that Lent is a time when I can venture forth from the walls of fear, when I can rest in God, for it’s clear what God wants: “Return to me with your whole heart.”
We were reminded weeks ago, in the Ash Wednesday readings, that “now is a very acceptable time” for this journey back to the God who loves. And yet, it has taken me this long to realize that it’s time to put my whole self in; it’s time to know freedom and joy. Indeed, no less now than ever before; no less now than ever shall be.
The cover image from Flickr user Chad Kainz, can be found here.