Monday, March 24, 2014

Lent and Loss

Two years ago tomorrow my father died.

He died in the middle of lent.  On Easter Sunday I said goodbye to my mother and the house he died in and headed back towards home on the other side of the globe.

Image courtesy of bela_kiefer /

Three years and a couple weeks ago was the great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami in northern Japan.  My world had already been rocked a couple months earlier by dad's cancer diagnosis but now the frequent yet unpredictable aftershocks caused my physical environment to match my emotional environment.

One year ago I was preparing to move back to the country of my birth after almost a decade overseas.

This year I often feel like a stranger in a strange land as we all seek to adjust to life back in the states.

Sometimes it feels like the world hasn't stopped rocking.

I miss my dad.  I remember how proud he was of me when I went to seminary and got a masters in youth ministry.  I don't think he ever said those words to me but I knew it.  He was pleased as could be that I was following in his footsteps even though he wished I would have gone all the way and gotten ordained ("When are you going to start preaching?" he would ask).

And now I'm living in a old house and renovating it using as little money and as many reclaimed materials and creative solutions as possible.  I'm doing things I never imagined myself doing like climbing into crawl spaces to identify plumbing problems, snaking out drains, hanging drywall, demolishing and rebuilding, laying flooring, and using power tools.

And I want to call my dad and ask him questions.  I want him to visit and see my handiwork.  I want to discuss options and ideas.  But most of all I want to see how proud he is of me for following in his footsteps.  He wouldn't say it, but I would know.  I would hear it in the tone of his voice and the questions he asked and the way he smiled.

I believe in heaven.  I believe my father is there. But I suspect heaven is nothing like popular conceptions of it. I don't believe my father is sitting up there looking down at his loved ones and smiling as he follows our daily lives.  And frankly even if he was it wouldn't make me feel better.

I miss him here and now.

Maybe that is what lent is about at least for me, for now, for this season.  Lent is about loss and the instability of this world, about sacrifice and denial.  Lent leads to the cross and the cross leads to resurrection: Jesus resurrection, Dad's resurrection, my resurrection.

But before we get to Easter there is a whole lot of lent and the whole betrayal and anguish in the garden and crown of thrones and "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me."

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