I'll confess I'm not sorry to see Lent come to an end this year.
Usually, I enjoy the Lenten season—although perhaps "enjoy" isn't quite the right word. I love that the liturgical calendar has a space for penitence and discipline, for the work of preparation that heralds joy and victory. But if I'm completely honest, what I probably like most about Lent is that it appeals to my dramatic side: the weeping and gnashing, the sackcloth and ashes, the oh-Lord-I-am-but-a-worm mentality.
These dramatic tendencies of mine might help to explain, in part, the Lent I found myself observing this year, the one that I am so happy to see come to a close. Early one morning shortly after Ash Wednesday I discovered my five-year-old daughter lying on the couch in her red footie pajamas, her arms outstretched and feet crossed. Wisps of strawberry-blonde hair framed her small face, twisted into a painful expression as she held her arms out to the side, cruciform. Atop her head she'd perched my U-shaped nursing pillow, to be her halo. All she lacked was a sign saying "This is the King of the Jews."
I knew at that moment it was going to be a very long Lent.
Since that morning, my children have enacted the Passion so many times I'm starting to feel as if I'm living in a medieval morality play. Oberammergau it's not, but the reenactments are heartfelt, and as the weeks have dragged on they've gotten it down to a science: my daughter plays Jesus dying on the cross, and my three-year-old son weeps. Then they switch. This arrangement leads to random comments like "Get off the cross! It's my turn to die."
As I watch them, I wonder what Lent will be like next year when the baby is old enough to play, too. How will they expand their repertoire? The Roman guards? The thieves on the cross? Mary? Perhaps Veronica? Suffice it to say, by the time we got to Holy Week I was definitely feeling an excess of Lent, and longing for the promise—and resolution—of Easter.
Knowing my children as I do, however, I doubt that Easter Sunday will bring an end to the Passion plays any more than Christmas brought an end to the endless reenactments of the Nativity. I suspect that we are going to carry Lent with us, and in preparation for this inevitability, I've found myself wondering how I can do the same. I know that my appreciation of the light of Easter is that much stronger for weeks spent contemplating the darkness—perhaps rather than sloughing off the darkness and running headlong into the light, I need to carve out a space in my Easter celebration to hold a remembrance of Lent, to hold on to the knowledge of exactly how much the light of redemption cost.
Anyone who plays a role in the behind-the-scenes of church life knows that there is no such thing as an Easter-less Lent; the joyful panoply of delight that is Easter morning takes hours of rehearsal, preparation, flower arranging. In the middle of a run-through for a Good Friday piece last week, I caught the strains of "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" floating down the church hall as the trumpeter rehearsed for Sunday morning. Easter preparations were in full swing, even through the fasting and the praying and the discipline of forty days. We knew Easter was coming. Having glimpsed those slivers of Easter all throughout Lent, I'm pondering how I can take slivers of Lent with me.
"Every Sunday is a harbinger of Easter," Amy Julia Becker wrote during Holy Week. This year, I'm praying that every Sunday may also bring with it a reminder of Easter's cost, of Jesus' sacrifice for our salvation. And as my children act out the crucifixion once again, I'm thankful for the opportunity to remember the darkness as I live in the light, and to carry Lent past Easter.