The long dark week of Lent

The long dark week of Lent

Many are in the midst of a time of hurt, loss, despair or death. Hanging on throughout the forever-three long days and nights of dark emptiness. Much of the Christian church begins the final week of Lent recalling Jesus’ seemingly triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Palm Sunday. How quickly the high of the disciples dissipated into betrayal, fear, and death.

Like the travelers in the airport in Brussels, life can change in an instant, the light blown out.

For others the journey is a slow crawl in a dark tunnel.

Last week, a dear sister laid her mother to rest from a form of dementia that makes Alzheimer’s seem benevolent. I know personally that the horror of the last years of her mother’s life don’t prevent heartache at losing her.

For all who feel like their own Lent will go on forever, that the darkness will never end, I want to share what she wrote on Facebook. (with permission – emphasis mine)

Cecelia Timberlake March 19 at 8:45 pm · A faith perspective of my mom’s death and LENT

This Lent has truly been a desert time for our family, for me, even when surrounded by others, a time without comfort knowing mom was so sick, a time for searching and praying for healing, and a time of preparation. This Lent saying goodbye to the woman who brought me into the world seemed impossible. I fought letting go of mom, resisting with all of my heart. This is my mother, our mother, grandmother, great grandmother and we all fought fiercely to keep her here.

The only way out of this desert is to let the love of Jesus be our guide. His Love dictated the path, the timing, the direction, and prepared the way. Mom was in the desert with us for a while. We ultimately had to let her go, surrender her to our Father.

This Lent I felt weaker than ever, but needed strength. I felt more alone than ever but needed support. I felt emptied of love but needed more love. I felt directionless but needed a compass.

This I know:
Jesus came out of the desert renewed, and He is my example. He tells us He will guide us, love us, strengthen us, quench our thirst, and give us guidance. He will show me and fill me with sustenance. He has great plans for us.

I imagine her walking forward, holding up her arms and smiling, seeing my dad and immediately feeling great joy. I can see him taking her hand and moving forward to greet her sisters Nita and Mildred, and brother Johnnie, I imagine the welcoming party of her mom and dad. Her son. Her friends. Her grandson. Oh, her joy.

THAT’S IT! THAT is the way out. Focus on mom being happy, being whole, enjoying being loved! Focus on her enthusiasm at having memories and the glory of Heaven. No more pain! No more imprisoned in her mind and body. Sometimes after a long dry wait, the rain comes and overnight the whole desert blooms in beautiful flowers. I think mom is in the midst of beauty now, Gods beauty.

Our church reenacts the final Passover Meal that Jesus ate with his friends and washed their feet. We read about his leading them to the garden to pray — he alone in agony when they all fell asleep. In that garden, before one of his friends betrayed him with a kiss, Jesus faced his own his brutal death and separation from God. Alone.

He knows the void of the desert. He knows what the long dark feels like. 

But there is more. So much more.

That night he suffered terrible abuse, cruelty, mockery and rejection, all on the way to “Good” Friday, his torturous death on a cross.

Then to his burial.

His tomb sealed with a stone that took at least ten men to roll in place, everything looked totally hopeless.

But there is more!

On the third day the brave ones found the tomb open, grave clothes undisturbed where they had laid his body. But he wasn’t there.

He arose! Jesus overcame death and darkness.

In this new life he made a way for us out of the wilderness.

Out of the darkness.

When it feels like all is lost, or not worth going forward, I do as Cecelia did. I recall what I know to be true. What God has done for me in the past. What I know of him. What he has promised. And recall that when I am weak, he is strong.

Then I throw myself into his love.

Wishing you the true Light, Joy and Peace.





When it is hard to see the light

The announcer reported the crash of the German plane in the French Alps last week, and chilled my soul. My son-in-law frequently flies over Europe. One of my daughters lives in Switzerland, and we’ve visited the French Alps together. Though strangers died and lost loved ones, the personal connection brought it into my heart. As the story emerged of the co-pilot’s suicide, selfishly taking many with him, including sixteen teens and their adult chaperons from a village in Germany, I couldn’t shake the heaviness.

It’s too dark.

All around, the darkness seems to be growing.

Isis is teaching children to behead people.

Arab countries call for Israel’s destruction, along with the Great Satan – the United States. Iran moves closer and closer to the threat of nuclear weapons. Many think the trouble brewing in the Middle East may initiate World War III.

From across the U.S., I read daily notices, no longer front page, of young people on shooting sprees, mothers on trial for their children’s deaths and, tucked even deeper in the paper, day after day, arrests for child molestation.

And I wonder how many are never reported.

How many silent screams fill our land.

This was the filter with which I stood in church and listened to the dramatic reading of Jesus entering Jerusalem on a young donkey – a symbol of peace.

The crowd cheers him. Too soon, we move to the last meal. Jesus washes their feet with his love, and Judas rushes out to betray him. With a kiss. And the crowd now mocks and shouts, “Crucify him!”

But before that final ordeal begins, Jesus goes to the garden and talks with his Father. Agonizes.

Some believe he dreads the beatings, mocking, shame and the pain of the cruelest death, on a cross.

I think he looks into the darkness, that horrible presence in our world that continues to rip open hearts and lives, and perhaps he dreads entering.

Perhaps his greatest agony is knowing that, even after it is all accomplished, after he does through the darkness and wins the victory, after he rises from death to regain Paradise for God’s creation, there are some who will still choose darkness.

Some will still ignore the warmth of the fire and walk out into the heart-chilling cold.

What I can’t understand is how they are able to carry others with them.

The little children killed or terribly abused or neglected by their parents, the orphans no one claims, all the wounds in childhood that lead to an angry, hurting adult who hurts others.

At times, this is the darkness that makes it hard to see the light.

I know I cannot dwell there.

I must choose to remember the sun is still shinning above the thick clouds.

His love has been poured out.

God has won.

The end is secure.

And when the darkness threatens to overwhelm us, there is hope. There is light. There is a new identity, a new life for all who chose to seek it.