Strange forms of confession seem to be popping out now that the snow is gone. This scene is quite remarkable, really. This past winter has been the most brutal that I’ve ever experienced. True, we didn’t exactly break the snowfall records, (but we’re pretty dang close) but the snow piles were as tall as garages and cars could barely see around a corner–they were packed so high with snow and salt. With all this snow, storm after storm, freezing rain and frigid wind–I thought–everyone thought–the snow would be here for months.
But thanks to a lottery drawing week of above freezing temperatures the snow is gone. Seriously. In one week I saw an entire snow globe melt into a marshy, green skeleton of spring, waiting for flowers and birds and baseball games to bring it to life. Nevertheless, under all the blustery winter crystals lies secrets of untold stories and unfinished business.
As I was walking from the parking lot at my apartment into the building I spotted a couple metal tins–like the ones you put cookies in–lying in the grass. I also saw golf balls, some trash, and paper…and my favorite–gum. Loads of it. Not just at my apartment, but everywhere. At both of my jobs–near the sidewalks and flowerbeds, little spots of grey spearmint are scattered. I looked at this one way–the trash hidden in the snow outside a certain place could describe the people in those places. Or, the snow pile was simply a good spot to hide and dispose of something.
Snow is not a compost pile. If you throw a banana peel into a compost pile–eventually it disappears. Throw gum into a snow pile…eventually it reappears. We’re not really getting rid of it. We’re actually making a bigger mess.
Christians, in light of the sacrifice made on the cross, have turned Lent into a season of sacrifice. The tradition is as old as the prophets–fasting, giving up something so our attention may be turned toward God. Depriving our stomach so our senses may be instead heightened to feel the presence of Christ, and to sympathize with our neighbor whose hunger pains are permanent.
But we have become lazy. Instead of searching our hearts and lives for the temptations and lifestyle habits that numb us to the pain of fellow humanity-and the call of God–instead of searching for and dealing with properly–we spit our sacrifices in the snow banks as we walk by. Our sacrifices have become self-serving and easy. Asking how we want to better ourselves–not how we can better give of ourselves. We make an act of confession, of sacrifice, in a way, we are physically giving up and getting rid of something we once enjoyed.
When the snow melts and the cross is lifted everything is exposed–naked. The earth is no longer concealed in a spotless blanket. It’s mud-filled, marshy skin holds our false sacrifices and half-hearted confessions.
Now, an even greater temptation stands and faces us. We greatly desire to gather everyone around. “You, don’t you chew this kind of gum? You spit that here, now you clean it up!” “And you, I saw you, this is your trash.” We desire not to throw stones, but assign burdens and boulders for others to carry.
We must remember our hands were not meant for judgment–but for mercy…”Mercy triumphs over judgment.” We continue to fail at keeping traditions and making new ones, and we will continue to make half-hearted sacrifices.
Maybe because we honestly don’t know any better.
Maybe we think this is the best we can do.
Or maybe we think the price is too great–and we are scared.
The price is high. The sacrifice, great. That’s why some revolutions don’t last. That’s why some get washed out in too much publicity. That’s why some stay underground and remain subversive to the empire–and why, to the world, we are doing life backwards, upside down, and the wrong way.
But it is more than a single act, a vow, a donation, or an organization. It is a people, breathing out a movement, a discipleship, a lifestyle, following the way to the Kingdom of God–on this earth–as it is in heaven.