The Beginning of Lent – Eyes Wide Open

I idly sit down at the bench waiting for the subway. I am part of this early morning crowd, here before sun up. We are a quiet, sleepy group.

As I look around my eye rests on something someone has left on the bench just a foot away from me. I open my eyes wider as I realize it’s a used, out of the packet, pregnancy test. From where I sit the result is clear: two distinctive pink lines. The test was positive.

I feel a wave of profound sadness come over me. A pregnancy test sitting here, inanimate and silent, on a subway bench. What is the story here? Why was it left? What are the circumstances of the woman who used it?

In the world I long to inhabit, pregnancy tests don’t work this way. Pregnancy tests happen with joyful expectation, to couples who are healthy and secure.

But this is the world I live in, where babies come when they are not wanted. Where abortion clinics thrive on a woman’s crisis. Where a used pregnancy test is discarded on a bench in a subway station.

Somehow that I see this on the first day of Lent in the Orthodox tradition seems right. It is my eyes being opened wide to a hurting world. My eyes wide open in realization that the world is not as it should be. And it is into this world and for this world that the greatest sacrifice of all was given.

So I move into a Lenten journey, a journey not of legalism but of grace. A journey that beckons me forward, even as my stubborn heart wants to stay put. A journey that better equips me to pray for, and sit with, the hurting of this world: the homeless mom of five by my office, the displaced refugee at a clinic, the woman who leaves a pregnancy test on a subway platform, the colleague/friend who unexpectedly lost her dad. A journey that is both practical and spiritual — asking me to go with almond milk when I want thick cream; beans when I want meat; humility when I want glory.

A journey that demands I have my eyes wide open though I want to keep them shut. 

Excerpt adapted from The Reluctant Orthodox – On Forgiveness & Fasting: In the Metropolitan Museum of art there is a sculpture called “The Struggle of the Two Natures in Man”. It sits in a large atrium and shows two men wrestling, one stands over the other, his foot firmly placed on the other man’s arm. My friend James is a wrestler. He says this about the sculpture:

“Having wrestled throughout high school, I thought I could lend a bit of insight to the sculpture. The two poised are actually in a pretty precarious position. It is really ambiguous who is winning. The one standing has his foot on the other’s arm, but the one lying down has the “planted” leg of the standing man in a scissor lock. Most of the standing man’s weight is on that one leg, so by “scissoring” his legs the lying down man can topple the standing man. Depending on what the standing man does, he could counter and establish control or be taken down to the ground none-too-gently (e.g., face-plant).”

This powerful and beautiful sculpture resonates with me at this time. The part of me that loves God and moves forward gladly in obedience wrestling with the part of me that whines for comfort and basks in my own will.

This is the picture I will carry with me during this time of Great Lent, knowing that God reaches out to my wrestling soul, beckoning me with a love beyond understanding. And as he persistently beckons, I slowly come.”

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