I have never observed Lent in any intentional demonstrable way. I have not given up: chocolate, wine, coffee, sugary treats, facebook, fat-fried foods, movies, and that list goes on… The fact is, this year I entered a season of Lent without even realizing it.
I am ‘on-leave’ from my place of work. Due to circumstances, I put down my tools of work and walked away for a while. So, yes, I chose to give up something that is near and dear to me and spend a ‘time in the desert’.
Time away from work used to seem like an oasis, not a desert. Time to read, engage in self-care, pray and meditate, and get to that annoying-but-not-right-now yard work or home repair. And while that has been happening, the loss has also occurred.
‘Work’ satisfies some central psychological needs. My sense of identity is deeply bound up in what I do. Just track how often the first question posed to a man is, “So, what do you do for a living?”. It is often central to identity. And there other things too.
So many needs are satisfied in one’s line of work. I work with others and have deep bonds and a strong community there. Shared stresses and challenges in a worksite can draw people together. I am also fortunate to work in a helping role where my efforts are rewarded in the accomplishment and gratitude of others. And I experience a fair degree of creative control over how I do my job. Belonging, independence, mastery and generosity are powerful emotional needs; my work brings significant emotional satisfaction, and I chose to walk away from all of that. My ‘time in the desert’ has brought this to my attention.
I have known these things about the world of work for a while now, if somewhat dimly, but this time of exile has brought this knowledge into sharp relief. Time away has brought other things into sharp relief as well. This extra time has created space for me to study, reflect, and pray on Christ’s time in the desert, his sacrifice and his loss.
Simply, as a man, what Christ gave up in his crucifixion. My loss is but the tiniest of windows through which to understand the immensity of what Christ did and experienced to save us. Knowing that God became man so that I, in my loss and suffering, can understand just a little bit more fully what Christ has done for me helps me grow in union with Christ. My loss is the tiniest thread in the great robe of Christ’s garments; it is insignificant in comparison but it is connected. There is the historical, cosmological, and theological scope of what Christ achieved on the cross, but in this time of loss I cling to my tiny piece of understanding. It demonstrates, once again, how Christ knows me and loves me because of what he was prepared to do. Christ went to the worst of places and forsake all worldly riches and rewards to teach this and to show us how he understands our simple struggles. This season of loss shows me how we are bound together by his passion and how God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Photo by Betty Lau