What are you dying to right now? To what do you need to die? What do you need to let go of in order to live?
This was the question we explored at our last confirmation gathering on a Sunday night, while eating soft pretzels with mustard and Cheeze Wiz (did you know that pretzels were created in the image of hands folded over one’s chest in prayer? And that they were made for folks coming out of prayer as a reward? And that their simple ingredients made them a perfect treat during Lent when people were fasting from sugar and fat?)
This is also the question that Lent asks us: what is being put to death in order that you might live? Lent is a season to get out into the garden of one’s life and ask, what here needs to go in order for me to grow into the fullness of Jesus, into the fullness of who God has made me to be? What needs to be hacked back? What dead branches need to go? What is overcrowded and what needs to be moved to get better light? What needs to be rejuvenated by the love of our baptismal waters?
What is being put to death in us this Lent that we might live a new life?
I’ve had to die to a great many things so far in my life. Mostly images of who I think I am or who I want to be.
When I was in the 6th grade, my family moved to a small town in rural, upstate NY and on the first day at my new school, the popular girls asked if I wanted to sit with them for lunch, as did a less popular girl, sporting an oh-so-fifth-grade Winnie-the-Pooh sweat shirt, who went to my new church. I chose the popular girls, flattered by their offer, quick to clothe myself in this newfound coolness.
Except in my heart of hearts, I am not a cool kid. I was a free lunch kid. I grew up something of a tom boy and in kindergarten I wrote that I wanted to be a comedian when I grew up. Was I goofy, yes. Spirited, yes. Thrifty, yes. Cool, definitely not. Yet I found myself in the 6th and 7th grade, doing things I didn’t really want to do to impress girls who were mostly mean, ripping out tags that would reveal that my pants were from Walmart and breaking my nose on a wall of loneliness as my efforts to fit in offered me no true belonging.
Until one day, the cool girls kicked me out of their lunch table (which they did to each other on a fairly regular basis). I went home at the ripe old age of 12 and a river or truth and cuss words spilled out of me all over the kitchen table where my mother sat listening, stunned by both my language and by the way I had masked my unhappiness.
That day, I let my inner-cool-girl die. I plucked that image of myself out of my garden and doused the ground with vinegar, hoping this weed wouldn’t grow back. Because that image was killing me.
Dying to my popularity allowed me to live in my skin. It afforded me room to find myself at a lunch table full of girls who have been my friends ever since - drama club kids, band nerds and girls with frizzy hair who didn’t care where their jeans were from.
As we come to the end of this Lenten season and enter the great Three Days of Jesus’ death and resurrection, I hope you have found the courage to die already, to all the false selves and false images that hold you back from your resurrection life. I hope God has found you and accompanied your dying and that friends have anointed you with love and oil as Mary Magdalene did for Jesus as if to say, this dying is holy. It is the portal through which your new life will come.
Join us this Holy Week to die and rise with Jesus.