pain & possibility

Last night, as we ate our Fat Tuesday pancakes at the Catholic church around the corner, a friend asked me if I gave things up for Lent. I don’t. I mostly just enjoy the fruits of other people’s fasting: the Knights of Columbus do pancakes on Fat Tuesday and THEN they cook up the *best* fried fish (and homemade coleslaw, mac&cheese, hushpuppies & french fries with a particularly lovely dill-heavy tartar sauce on the side) and sell $13 plates every Friday during the season. If you’re in Durham, you can enjoy the fruits of other people’s fasting, too:

I don’t fast during Lent. But my friend’s question made me remember that sometimes, I do add things on during Lent instead of taking them away. Some years, I commit to a daily writing practice. And, last night, I suddenly wanted to do that again.

Lent is long: 40 days’ worth of preparation and reflection. We’ll see how this commitment goes, whether or not I can keep up with the grueling pace of daily writing. My daily Advent writing was really good and really hard, and that was writing about HOPEFUL things. I’m teaching a class for my church this season called “From Pain to Possibility,” (it’s Tuesday evenings at 7pm EST on Zoom, and you – yeah, you – are welcome to join us. My people are friendly and thoughtful and love getting to know new people). I think I want to write about those things: pain and possibility. It might prove a bit harder than writing about hope. But I’ve already found some trustworthy guides, and I already have some painful stories full of possibility that I want to tell. I would also love to hear your stories about how pain and possibility co-exist, if you’re willing to share them.

On Ash Wednesday, lots of Christians read Psalm 51, which is a penitential psalm, a prayer asking God to forgive sins. That reading can get used in some kind of gross ways – even the very idea of “sin” gets used in gross and hateful ways – but there are lines in this psalm that I love:

Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

Crushed bones can rejoice. Spirits can be sustained. Joy can be restored. That’s what I want to think and write about together in this season. I hope you’ll join me.

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