Lenten Journal: Naked Descent

I am slowly beginning to reconnect with myself. Which is great, but I feel sad that I seem incapable of doing this when my life is stressful and overwhelming. It’s weird that my automatic response is to shut down, to disconnect. Observing Lent has been a shock to my system, keeping me awake and open and painfully aware.

I’m realizing that this is the first time I’ve ever really observed Lent. I’ve fasted a few times, but I didn’t “get it.” Two things are helping me now: first, I’ve been reading a collection of reflections on Lent called Bread and Wine. Superb. Second, I’ve been memorizing Psalm 51—that’s the one attributed to King David, after he had an affair with Bathsheba and then had her husband killed. Both are beginning to show me that Lent is a stripping away, bit by bit, to the naked truth of the soul that is crouching in a dirty pile of selfishness, greed, pride, and rebellion. I liked what I read about it today:

“The reason Lent is so long is that this path to the truth of oneself is long and snagged with thorns, and at the very end one stands alone before the broken body crowned with thorns upon the cross. All alone—with not one illusion or self-delusion to prop one up. Yet not alone, for the Spirit of holiness, who is also the Spirit of helpfulness, is beside you and me.” (Edna Hong)

Another writer in Bread and Wine put it this way: “We travail. We are heavy laden. Refresh us, O homeless, jobless, possession-less Savior. You came naked, and naked you go. And so it is for us. So it is for all of us.” (Barbara Cawthorne Crafton)

Hong later quotes G.K. Chesterton: “I have found only one religion that dares to go down with me into the depth of myself.” Hong says, “…it is true. No other religion dares to take me down to the new beginning.” (Emphasis mine)

I love that—the descent to the new beginning—because it’s the Holy Spirit who does it. The Spirit who makes old things new, and also who is the only one deeper than our depth, who can get to our “innermost being” and the “hidden part” where God desires truth and wisdom (Psalm 51:6) And that’s what Psalm 51 is doing for me…it’s stripping away my pride, taking me to the gaping hole at the bottom of my being where I try to hide my darkness. But everyday, I come to Psalm 51 and it is a mirror to me, saying, “Take a look at your darkness. It has always been there, it is never going away—you need help.”

And Lent is all about descending, and staying down, crawling on the sea floor under the inky black pressure so that on Holy Saturday—after death has been defeated—we see a ray of light cutting through the waters. We swim up to it, and it carries us like a vertical current so that on Easter Sunday we burst into the sunlight, gasping for breath, but laughing too. And we squint at the sparkling green waters, and we’re shocked to discover that clutched in our fists is the joy of our salvation—restored, golden, set with rubies.


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