It seems that the Lenten season for me has been an altogether odd time. I’ve withdrawn somewhat from church activities and found it increasingly hard to get input and help from the 20s/30s group I’m supposed to be moderating. Also, the continuation of cold, bad weather have made me less eager to go outside, despite the lengthening of the days. Perhaps I’m on my own little time apart in the wilderness, but it seems that Lent should be a season of getting closer to God, and I feel I’ve failed that in isolation as well.
But there are still touches of grace and contemplation. At a recent classical concert I attended, I realized how much beauty there has been in the name of religion. Looking at the Western world, I see music, painting, and architecture all developed for the glory of religion. I think about Eastern thought, developed alongside religious practice. I think about the way politics and religion have mixed, both for the betterment (Mother Theresa) and the detriment (the Crusades) of mankind. True, these things probably could have happened even without religion, but it’s uplifting to think something I like spurred those good parts. At that same concert, I found out that Mike didn’t know the meaning of the word ‘hosanna’, which I translated as meaning ‘praise’, or something similar. I was not all that sure about a concrete definition myself, so I decided to look it up, and it does mean praise or acclamation.
Also the concert reminded me about what I know and love about my home church. I miss the Christmas Eve services with the sactuary lit only by the light of a thousand tiny small candles. I love the symbolism of taking those tiny lights back with us into our lives – I never want to blow mine out. Next week I will once again miss our congregation ending the service by singing the Hallelujah Chorus. The thought of all those voices lifted in song, a powerful wave of sound and togetherness, moves me. While it’s true that some of us sing better than others, the general cacophony does serve to blur out the flaws any individual voices might have. Mostly we’re on-pitch anyway – I’ve heard the musical rending that is Chinese church, and I’m not afraid to renew my amazement at our combined voices in the face of that. Despite our individual shortcomings, for moments like that chorus on Easter Sunday we are all of us beautiful.
But in the end I’m left with nagging worry. Are these little moments enough? Is my life singing to God or with God, or am I just going through the motions? A part of that is guilt I feel from shirking responsibilities that are becoming onerous, but a part of it runs deeper as well. I never want to be the type of Christian who goes to church, gives some money, and thinks that’s enough. I want to learn. I grow. I want to never stop questioning my life and really dig into what it means. I want to feel filled up in faith, and a part of that means continually losing and then reaffirming my relationship with God. Without some of that slipping, there’s no contrast to tell me where I stand. Still, the times in my life like this one when I’m not exactly where I want to be still leave me feeling shaky and unstable in myself.