And that’s only the state of the house. One can’t escape the endless reading lists for class, the papers and responses, the I-should-be-at-least-start-on-my-big-papers-so-I’m-not-freaking-out-later that claws at the throat in the quietest moments. Kids’ activities to be managed, scheduled, shuffled, and remembered. I can’t forget that I’m also a wife, which requires more than a flying out the door peck on the check, because I’m too late to aim for your lips; and a friend – even if all I ever seem to do is say that I’m praying over you; and a daughter and sister and niece and grand-daughter – yep, praying for y’all, too! And what about that bible study we told everyone we would host this semester? We had it all planned out; well mostly. And yes, Lord, I hear you tugging at my heart about joining – actively participating in, giving parts of myself to – a community of your followers; but can You find one that meets when I can? And instead of adding to my reading, can’t I just go and listen? Oh, yeah, Lord, about that promise to work-out every day…does sleep count?
It’s not even two weeks into Lent and the oppressive I’m-failing-at-everything has curled up on the sofa and refuses to budge; more grafted-in family member than uninvited guest anymore. And who wants to fail God? It’s not so much that I think I’ll lose His love in my broken promises or undone chores or missed opportunities; but I do think that in these, I fail to make Him proud. Like I’m not earning my keep, or taking advantage of all the gifts He’s so lavishly laid before me; that I’m squandering my time and treasures, or that I’m hoarding these things and somehow disappointing Him.
But I hear the Father’s voice, repeating Himself across my kitchen table and in the texts for class, because sometimes I have to hear things more than once before I really listen.
God can’t love you any less than He does right now;
He can’t love you any more, either.
The Father loves you no matter what you do or don’t.
The student in me pauses, rolls the theory over and over in my head – it’s awfully small a thing to be such a big truth. I hold it up against the scriptures, just to be sure – does the whole counsel of God agree to this, or is it a pithy thing that placates followers like me who can’t get it together?
But there it is, at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry – before the resurrection, before the cross, before the miracles, before He even read from the scroll of Isaiah or said “ego emi.” Before any of it, the “Father declare[d] that he [was] already ‘well pleased’ with His ‘beloved Son’ without reference to his works.”* The Father loved the Son unconditionally; not for being incarnate; not for enduring the cross; not because Jesus followed God’s will without fail; not for Christ’s work with the poor and oppressed and forgotten. The Father loved the Son. That’s it.
And so it is with me. And you. There is nothing I, or you, could ever do to earn this love. There is nothing I, or you, could do to maintain this love. This is a love that is completely outside of you and me. We have no power over it. It is there on the days we fail; it is there on the days we nail it. It was there before we knew it; it’s there when we can’t feel it. It is a love that, before we even knew we needed it, goes to the cross on our behalf. And bleeds for us, dies for us.
And lives for us.
There is nothing for us to do, but accept it. To wrap it around our lives. To live in it and out of it.
So it is with Lent. There is nothing for us to do, but live in wonder and awe at a love so big that it covers us, every day – good and bad, failing or nailing it. Every single day we are loved with a vast and unwavering love that is not conditional upon us; but is a love that is a who-God-is love. And that love is the reason for Lent.
*Sanders, The Deep Things of God