I am in the midst of a move. I’m in the awkward time of needing to work in my office, eat in my kitchen, sleep in my bedroom, play in my living room, but also needing stuff to be in boxes.
I really hate this precise, prolonged moment. I don’t like feeling in transition. I’m OK with ending and I’m OK with starting-it’s the in-between time that is uncomfortable. I am made deeply uneasy by empty shelves and walls, and I am resentful of the unavoidable necessity of a few nights in hotels between the day the movers load up our belongings in Montreal and deliver them to our new home in Ottawa. I don’t want to be in-between. I want to jump from here to there.
So maybe I’m not so good at ending, after all. I want the excitement of new beginnings to help duck the sadness of the endings. I want the resurrection without spending my time in the tomb.
But that’s not how it works. Noah spent 40 days on a boat watching the earth get washed away before beginning a new world on barely dry land. Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness, saying goodbye to the life he had before he began the ministry recorded in the gospels. And the disciples spent three impossibly dark days contemplating the end of that ministry before Jesus appeared to them in the upper room to make a remarkable new beginning. Endings take time.
On Ash Wednesday, we are reminded that we will end, returning to the dust from which we were made. If I had my way, we would then jump straight to Easter and the good news of the resurrection-Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday with no uncomfortable in-between time. But Lent won’t let us. Lent holds us in a season of ending. For 40 days, we do the work of saying goodbye to our old lives so that we are ready to take up our new lives in the risen Christ. We refocus our attention on the centrality of God and our deep need of God’s grace. We deny ourselves small pleasures in order to practise holding such things lightly and in their right place. We recognize our solidarity with humanity and all creation, engaging in acts of generosity and compassion. We seek reconciliation in the giving and receiving of forgiveness.
But even so, we do it all with one eye on the horizon, confident in the knowledge that Easter is coming and that this ending is not The End Of Everything. This ending is a preparation, a making room, for what is to come. Sadness and hope, you see, can coexist quite comfortably, if we let them.
So, this Lent, I will work in my increasingly bare office and switch to takeout instead of home-cooked meals for as long as it takes, and I will be grateful for the opportunity to practise ending in preparation for the renewal of my life, and all life, in the resurrection of Jesus.