Lent Is Too Long
Dia, me, and my mother
I want resurrection, and I want it now!
Scripture Reference: Luke 15:11-32
It's Monday of Holy Week, and over this past weekend I packed up myself and the dog and headed the three hours north to see my mother. As you can see from the picture, we were not frolicking in the great outdoors or remembering the days of our youth over a cup of coffee. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer's at age 70 and has been in a home with some level of clinical care since 2004. She will be 79 next month.
When I arrived at the nursing home with my brother and Dia, she teared up twice in the first few minutes. At one point she said something, but her words have been unintelligible for many years and mostly she is silent. Dia climbed on my lap and licked her hand. She seemed not to notice. I wish I knew what she could comprehend even though she cannot usually respond.
I'm back home now, and I think of her tears. I wonder if they were tears of joy or sadness or frustration. The only thing I know is that I feel a bit like the Prodigal must have felt before he asked for his inheritance and ran off. I want the inheritance of my Heavenly Father. I want resurrection, and I want it now!
I want resurrection for my mother. She's lived this nightmare for nine years now--she who was ever the dutiful, faithful child of God. Like the elder brother in the parable, she may be wondering why everyone else gets the big party and not her. Her Lent has been too long. I want her resurrection and I want it now.
I want resurrection for myself and my brother. I want resurrection for all those who are suffering and for all those who suffer because of their love for them. Their Lent has been too long. I want resurrection for Libya and Bahrain, Syria and Yemen, Egypt and Algeria and for those still lifting splintered, radioactive boards looking for missing loved ones in Japan. For those who have lost their jobs and their homes and their lives to needless violence, I want resurrection, and I want it now!
But it is only Monday. We must wait. For some reason, waiting is good for our souls. Waiting and perseverence are as much biblical themes as resurrection and streams in the desert. The Hebrew slaves waited 400 years for Moses to come along.
At the start of Jesus' ministry, the people of Israel had been suffering Roman occupation for 93 years. They were so excited on Palm Sunday to think that maybe Jesus was the Messiah who would free them from the Romans and give them independence once again. Their Lent had been too long, and I can understand how they turned on him so quickly when he turned out not to be the political revolutionary they had hoped.
But there is something about the waiting. There is something about the days and nights in the tomb and the 40 years in the wilderness. Something in that time forms us, like the bulbs we plant in November that aren't allowed to flower until May or the child conceived in February that cannot bear the world outside of the womb until October.
It is in the waiting that we are forged and reforged, molded and made. It is in the fire that our souls are refined so that we emerge from our tombs of suffering in a blinding light rather than like the Prodigal, crawling back to our Heavenly Father in shame after eating the slop of pigs.
And so we wait. All of us. In whatever fires rage around us. Somehow those purifying flames are our hope. Somehow that awful Cross is our salvation. And so we pick it up. And we bear it, even though we often stumble and fall from the weight of it and the frailty of our bodies. But we pick it up again and go to the top of the hill. And we die.
And then, at last, from the darkness of the tomb, there comes a blinding light...