For Lent, God is Taking My Breath Away

By Marybeth Bishop

Last week, Kristen invited us all to use Lent to catch our breath. She pointed out that this past year has been, well, a LOT.

It was last year during Lent—during Holy Week, in fact—that I left the Catholic Church. It took almost a year to break the news to the last of my kids (covid made it easy to not go to Mass without further explanation), but they all agreed that inside the church is not where we want to be. So, after 50 years, I face my first Lent as a non-Catholic.

Just in time for Lent, I received my copy of Kristy Burmeister’s Apologies: A Somewhat Interactive Poetry Experiment. Burmeister’s poems center around faith, hypocrisy, and deconstruction, and they were just the prayer I needed heading into the season.

When Ash Wednesday arrived, I felt downright guilty for not having a smudge on my forehead—but I also couldn’t bear the thought of a liturgical service. The “break-up” is too fresh. So instead I enjoyed the tulips I’d bought a few days before to commemorate my late father’s birthday. They were saggy when I first brought them home, but on Wednesday they stood straight up, red-and-yellow sentinels attesting to the goodness of God. Oh, I remembered that I’m dust. I remember it every day. But at least I was able to honor the beauty around me as I slowly return to ash.

Every year I use some sort of devotional for Lent, previously specifically Catholic. This year I decided to take Kristen’s advice to heart and take a breath. Instead of focusing on death, guilt, and culpability, I chose the Salt Collective’s Vincent Van Gogh and the Beauty of Lent. It combines chunks of scripture with the letters and paintings of Van Gogh, and offers suggested practices after reflection. It is not all fluff, but there is beauty. There is light.

In this era where everything is just too much, I hope you will take the time to take a breath with us. The more I pause to breathe, the more God takes my breath away.

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