dear hilary: lent and tenderness

Dear Hilary,

It’s Ash Wednesday today. I woke up feeling like it is any other day. I don’t understand Lent. What’s the point of giving things up? What does it accomplish in us? Isn’t it just a lot of fuss about nothing? Did you give something up?


Dear Not-Yet-Lenten,

I used to say the same thing when I slumped in my pew in the dreary February days. I would say that it didn’t matter, shouldn’t matter, that I “gave something up.” God and I were good. I talked to Him every now and then. I prayed, I went to church, and I could have a theological argument with the best of them. So what was the fuss about Lent? Why rend my heart (I didn’t know what that meant…) and come back to the Lord? Had I really gone anywhere, anyway?

And the answer that question was always, is always, yes. 

You see, I fling myself far away from the love of God. I hide in work and play, in comfortable living, in my sense of being so busy, so important, that I cannot possibly make time to be with Him. I hurt others with my words and actions, sling sarcasm and insult around as if it’s cleverness.

Sometimes, oh, sometimes, I preen like a bird proud of her bright feathers, trying to get your attention over here. I scoop up facebook shares and twitter mentions and try to breathe in from it a sense of making it or going somewhere or even, maybe this will really become something and make me a real writer… 

And I run away from God. I hide in my desire to be noticed and affirmed. I hide from Him in my plans and schemes, and I stop listening to His voice that says, “Enough, Hilary. It’s enough that you write, just for you and me.” 

Lent isn’t just about “giving things up” because we are sinful or disobedient – it is a whole heart transformation. It is about giving up the things we hide behind. It is about revelation and light. God uses Lent to reveal us to ourselves; and only then can He be revealed in us.

Lent is about the light of Christ: the light that reveals our dust selves, our sinful, ashamed selves, and the tenderness of that light. Because here is my favorite, surprising, radical thing about Lent: it is also about tenderness.

It is about God holding us in the midst of our realizations and heart-rending, loving us as we give up before Him things we don’t know how to live without, teaching us, and in that special way only He has, wrapping us up in His tenderness and grace.

Lent is about this, love: tenderness and light.

So I’m giving up Facebook and I’m giving up Twitter and blog promotion and writing my way in the silence of the blogosphere these 40 days. I’m giving that up so that, with bent knees and heart, I can lean into His tenderness.



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