I love the journey of Lent—our clay-and-muck beginnings on Ash Wednesday through the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection during Holy Week and Easter Sunday.
The journey of Lent has been a foundational pausing place on the calendar year for me, becoming a hallowed season to stretch my reflections on earthly embodiment and the cosmic Christ. It wasn’t until I was older that someone pointed out that Evangelical Christians don’t usually pay such close attention to the liturgical calendar.
When Richard Rohr’s Wondrous Encounters fell across my path, I picked it up ready to be inspired to live this Lent better than years past (a telling statement on which half of life I am in). The starter prayer in Wondrous Encounters for the First Sunday of Lent (page 23) stopped my piety short: “God, help me to distinguish my wild beasts from my angels. Help me to see how I often confuse one with the other.”
Oh, God. I do confuse them, don’t I?
How often have I seen my struggles and shortfalls become redemptive allies in relationships, both divine and human! On the other hand, I also play angelic games to look smart, spiritual or loving when my intentions are really to build my ego. Confusion certainly abides.
It would be easy to say “typical Evangelical,” but I think a more truthful notion would be “typical human being.” There are lots of blurry intentions here, and it gets me wondering about my field of vision: How am I seeing and naming my daily intentions?
This Lent I feel drawn into an experience of roaming across the field of my vision, befriending the wild beasts and angels alike. I hope to set aside my snappy judgments and carry unsophisticated questions. How is God present in my relationships with wild beasts and angels? Does Scripture shed any light on these relationships?
If I am honest with myself, my vision feels faint most of the time so my discernment on the journey rests on grace. My prayer for Lent has shifted slightly. I am leaning into grace as I pray, “God give me the eyes to see the subtle and subversive trails of the Spirit’s movement amongst the ‘angels’ and ‘beasts’ in my life.”
I put my trust in the God of Lent who dwells not only in the mystery of death and resurrection but the journey toward it. The Mystery is inviting, and I hope to walk deeper into it. May my confusion subside and my vision be wonder-full at what I discover this Lenten season!
Paul Swanson hails from the muddy banks of Lotus Lake, Minnesota. As a part-time Evangelical Covenanter and a part-time Mennonite, he also enjoys being a part-time staff member of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico, working with Richard Rohr. Paul is currently studying Christian spirituality at Creighton University.