Lent, for me, is going inward.

It is a long look at who and where I am, in the quiet of the desert, with Jesus as my companion.

When I settle into it, recognizing the significance of the opportunity and my desperate need of it, confusing thoughts and problems start to come into focus. The ways in which I turn away from myself, from my understanding of God's hand in my life, become clear. I might be looking for validation in others instead of within myself, or hoping I might avoid having to make a difficult decision by making up excuses about why it can't be made. I might be avoiding looking at my own behavior in some area of my life. I feel convicted and relieved as I examine the reality of my life, feeling supported and encouraged but expected to tell the truth about things and act accordingly. I know there is nothing I face alone, but the work is mine alone to do.

There are days when I sit, some when I crawl, some when I walk, and some when I run, but Jesus keeps me aware of the necessity of awareness and courage. I have to bear with myself, with the monkey mind and the constant desires to distract myself or do something else, which gives me a model for bearing with other people. It is cold at night and hot during the day, but I'm okay. Though he doesn't eat, I'm provided for. 

Through this process, I come to understand a little of his pain, especially as a result of indifference. Our own hard-heartedness keeps us from making real progress, both in our relationships and as human beings. We are all afraid of playing the fool, but his goal is to make each of us fools for love. It is foolish, according to the world, to love people unconditionally. It is foolish, according to the world, to practice nonjudgment. It is foolish, according to the world, to offer what you have to the point of sacrifice, even if it be your life. In all these ways, Jesus is foolish in our view, so we refuse to follow him. But to him, we are all foolish because we cannot see what is really important, and even if we catch a glimpse of it, we are so reluctant to believe it that we pretend we didn't.

This reckless love, learned by following him, is what we are all called to practice. The lovability of the other person is irrelevant. The commitment to love on the part of the lover is all that is needed. It is the hardest decision of our lives to relinquish our old ways of thinking, our habits that keep us safe from risk, in order to follow him. But this following is what brings us to the point where we can truly see, understand, and come to love and forgive ourselves that we might love and forgive everyone else.

May we all see others in their desert experiences, remembering Rainer Maria Rilke's entreaty to "be kind to all you meet, for we are all fighting a hard battle."