Lent’s almost over–what do I have to show for it?

Approx. read time: 3:10 min.

Wildflowers bloom in the Owen Rose Garden, Eugene, 2013

Wildflowers bloom in the Owen Rose Garden, Eugene, 2013

I wouldn’t say I live with wild excess, or even with unthinking excess. I live pretty simply. Prayer each day is front-and-center. 

And almsgiving? I try to not let it dip when times get tough.

So Lent poses a challenge: What can I do that will be meaningful in this long and solemn season?

And every year, as Holy Week approaches, I start to feel uncomfortable—guilty, really—because Lent is slipping by, and so am I.

So God and I sit down for a little chat. I can tell that God has been waiting for this moment, because a question springs forward before I get settled into the sofa.

What breaks your heart?” God asks. 

What breaks my heart?

A worthy question, I think, because God is all about costly love. And I ashamedly wonder why God even has to raise it.

For myself, personally? Right now? What breaks my heart? I can’t think of much. 

OK, I come up with one thing, which is more a disappointment than a heartbreak.

So I push the question outward, beyond my personal bubble.

And I am amazed at the speed with which the anguished world comes pummeling in.

Amazed, too, at how the crush of daily news is actually the individual stories of all the ways humanity can wound and be wounded, break and be broken, care and be changed.

As I think these thoughts, more tumble in.

What really breaks my heart are the relentless forms of violence and ruthless exploitation that hollow out the soul of humanity. 

I think of refugees fleeing their homelands due to war, collapsed economies, repressive regimes, genocide, and drought and locust infestations that yield devastating famine.

I think of labor exploitation, especially exploitation of the poor through unjust wages and the many forms of human trafficking. 

I think of separation of desperate families, and the open and also hidden forms of gratuitous cruelty which they suffer.

I think of the pillaging of lands and the befouling of nature’s systems, all for transnational corporate profits. I think of the disappearance and death of land protectors, water protectors, and those who document and post the blatant injustice of it all.

These are some things that break my heart. 

I am stunned at what I feel. God weeps. And the well-oiled machinery of exploitation shows no signs of slowing. 

The Psalmist wails: They eat up my people, as though they were eating bread.

It’s hard to get my arms around these deep channels of heartbreak. 

These forms of violence and devastation do not appear to directly and personally affect me. Yet I participate in them all, one purchase at a time. 

They occur on a massive scale beyond my reach, I tell myself.

But this is no reason to go numb.

Daily—daily—I earnestly invoke the Spirit of the risen Lord to “penetrate into the most needful places,” into the dark spaces of crass injustice and devastating heartbreak.

I trust the words in Romans 8, that the Spirit of the risen Lord intercedes “with inexpressible groanings.” And I believe that God knows “the intention of the Spirit,” because the Spirit intercedes in all the broken-hearted places.

Holy Week is almost here. I have some serious work to do.

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