On Ash Wednesday, I awoke in the dark, and clumsily made my way toward coffee. While I’d slept, a vulnerable post had been released into a bigger sphere than my normal audience, and there was no taking it back. Strangers, loved ones, or acquaintances were reading the delicate story my mind had kept in sounds, feelings, and colors. It’d taken a long time to find the language, but somehow, 700 words made it to paper and the sensory story I hadn’t known was there had finally been told. It was healing to honor it and let it go, and as a gift, the Lord saw fit to have it open my Lenten season.
I didn’t yet have a practice for Lent, but I was chaperoning the 6th grade zoo field trip and I figured the zoo gardens were the perfect setting for a soul retreat and the revelation of a meaningful practice for the next forty days. But before we boarded the busses, it was announced my daughter would be a soloist in the upcoming spring concert, and in the few seconds it took to say her name, my soul took a long sip of disappointment.
My daughter had tried out for countless solos and it was happy news she’d finally been chosen, but without knowing the date of the concert, I’d already said ‘yes’ to attending a conference that would fall on the same day. In twenty-two years I’d attended at least 2 million games, concerts, assemblies, science fairs, leadership days, rehearsals, speeches, awards ceremonies, presentations, dance performances, and parades. I’d spent my life being there, even when it didn’t seem to matter, and now that it was the big solo that mattered a lot, I’d be absent.
I was confused, maybe even indignant. I was annoyed that the God of all time and goodness couldn’t work things out a little better. I was afraid my daughter would need therapy for the rest of her life because of my absence. And I was uncomfortable with these unpleasant feelings. More than that, I was discontent with forty years’ worth of other confusion, disappointment, hurt, indignation, annoyances, and fears. I didn’t want them anymore.
So I wandered into the forty day season with a promise rather than a practice, the same promise throughout Scripture: if I look for God – even in the midst of things I don’t understand – He says I will find Him.
Forty is the number of years former slaves wandered in the desert; the number of days rain fell and swelled around one boat holding all the world’s remaining life; the number of fasting days for prophets, and for Jesus Himself. Forty is the number of days I stewed and worried and overate to avoid the hard work of letting go of old grievances (and of watching a solo on Duo rather than from the front row).
When counted as a number, forty is the timeline of hardship and nearly losing your senses. But when viewed as a process, forty is a number of healing.
Newly freed slaves wander, and in the process, learn to trust the provision of a new Master. Water covers everything, and in the process, the earth is made clean. Prophets and the Messiah go without, and in the process, they draw closer to God and find He is enough – He is everything.
I unbury the hard stuff I don’t understand, and in the process of confronting and forgiving, I see what I hadn’t before – healing. In the Holy practice of looking for Him, I find Him, as He promised. But the Easter story I’ve never seen until last week – Holy Week – is that in the process of looking for Him, He’s healing my heart, healing my mind, and healing my senses, so that when I find Him, I’ll see, hear, feel, and know it’s Him. And I’ll recognize He’s the Savior He says He is.