At some point in my mid-thirties I realized I was holding on a little too tightly. It manifested as an unshakeable anxiety about having control over my life, about what I thought I was supposed to be doing.
This eventually led was a very Dante-esque experience: Midway through the journey of my life, I was lost.
Now, if you’ve read Dante’s Divine Comedy you know that once he found himself in that dark woods, he was found by God, but then he had to journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise until finally, he saw God face to face, and experienced an unmediated encounter with divine love.
But before I, or Dante, could move forward, we had to let go. For Dante it was exile from his beloved Florence and the end of his political career. For me, it meant an end of a career path that I truly thought was my vocation, and with it a great sense of loss and grief, even of annihilation: If I was no longer this, then what was I?
Well, as time unfolded in it’s slow and steady way God’s grace poured into my broken heart like water through cracks in the cold stone and I realized that I was not annihilated: In fact, if anything, I was expanded, and the world itself and even God seemed more expansive too. The rules of life I had followed and any sense I had it all figured out fell away, and this great cosmos of deep love and deep loss opened up before me. So much freedom and so many things to pursue, so little time, and lots of choices that needed to be made with patience, wisdom, and discernment.
I’ve continued to live with this sense through the pandemic. As we’ve welcomed a new baby, and some old opportunities have faded, and new opportunities have opened up, I’ve pondered and prayed, treasuring it all in my heart.
In a time of great stress and upheaval, it’s somewhat inevitable that we will begin to focus on the essentials of life: what am I doing, who am I doing it with, and why am I doing it?
You have a limited amount of time to decide, and the clock is ticking.
Lent is a good time to slow down, take a step back, and consider these realities: you have opportunities, you have limitations, and you only have so much time.
Eventually, almost anything and everything you pursue, outside of love, will be something you have to let go of: Your job, your dreams, your politics, your opinions, all of it will at best be fodder for the next generation to discard or preserve, to judge worthy of remembering or of the garbage heap.
Today is a good day, the only day really, to prayerfully consider what is essential and what is non-essential in your life, knowing that one day we will be asked to let go of everything that is not love, and that will be the Great Letting Go. But I think we’ll be surprised how much more we have when that’s all we’ve got left.