In preparation for Ash Wednesday I wrote these words: “It is easy for Christianity to dissolve into platitudes. What is intended to be about speaking hope can become dodging reality. We speak platitudes to diminish the pain of others. We speak platitudes to run away from our doubts. But tonight we stand boldly on the edge of the abyss, acknowledging our faith does not prevent death. We stand on the edge of the abyss with nothingness spread out before us and proclaim there is hope to be found even here.”
It did my heart good to think about the church boldly facing reality. But it lead me to wonder at how many ways we, the church, fail to face reality or even do things which intentionally obscure reality. How do we use faith to avoid uncomfortable truth? How does such behavior damage any credibility the church might have and get in the way of being love and justice in the world?
So, I propose a different Lenten discipline: each week of Lent let’s face honestly a new truth about church, faith or life. Such as:
Week 1: Speak honestly about someone else’s pain. I don’t mean tell someone else how they feel, but resist temptation to minimize someone else’s pain. We use our religion to minimize the pain of others all the time. We use euphemisms and platitudes. We talk about faith as though it is proof against pain. We talk about ministry as though it is a prize for suffering. This week, pay attention to how you react to other people’s difficulties. At least once, respond to someone by frankly acknowledging hurt without any caveats or comforts. Resist using phrases like “passed away” “with the angels” or describing how God is at work. Say something like “I am sorry he died” or “that sucks” or “how awful” or just “I am sorry.” Listen without fixing or comforting. Face the brutal reality of suffering in this world.
I had planned on posting the other weeks of Lenten truth facing. But last night brought the death of another young child in our community. Our hearts are heavy. So, it seems this is all which needs to be said for now. I will post the other weeks some other time. A child has died and it is horrible.