Lent perplexes me. The events it recalls are chaotic, especially the last few weeks. Jesus enters Jerusalem to cheers, but then it is bedlam. He tears up the temple he says is doomed, denounces the powerful, his disciples pull swords from their cloaks, and there is an extended scene of torture and death, followed by the greatest surprise ending of all.
Echoing that chaos, I usually seem to over-schedule myself during Lent. Just in the two weeks before Easter, in addition to my usual classes I am giving presentations in Boulder, Colo., Austin, Texas, and Williamsburg, Va. I'll be wrestling with the chaos of the Gospels just as my own life becomes disorienting. Where, in all of this mess, will I find the deep meaning that Lent is supposed to offer?
The answer is that I don't know. Not yet. But I am confident that it will come.
The patience to wait and see, expectantly, is something I have learned late in life. Too often, I have tried to create meaning through force of will, the way I try to create an academic article or a change in the law, but the Holy Spirit doesn't work like that.
In a much lesser but analogous way, it's similar to the peace I have made with baseball. Over the course of my life, I have tried to understand everything about my favorite team, swung over to apathy and disinterest, and traversed everything in between, yet baseball is still a mystery. I enjoy it though, and here is why: I have learned to wait and watch for The Moment -- that one moment that will distinguish that game from all of the others in what is by its nature a ponderous and nuanced sport. Sometimes it will be something on the field, or in the stands, even outside the stadium altogether.
A year or so ago, I was at a Twins game. They were, and are, terrible at baseball. They have lost almost 100 games each of the past few years, and it is looking pretty grim for 2013. Still, that night, something happened: They won on a walk-off homer by an end-of-the-bench pinch hitter. That little miracle, though, wasn't The Moment. The Moment came about three seconds later.
In my row of the stands was a woman in her 40s who had been watching the game with casual interest. When the baseball went over the wall she was transformed. She leapt to her feet, put her two hands directly over her head in fists turned perpendicular to the field, and lifted her right leg, so her knee was bent and the right foot was carefully set next to her left knee. She leaned back, smiled broadly and yelled. It was a cheerleader pose, no doubt carefully learned at a dusty hot summer camp 30-some years before, and in that burst of elation it had come out, fully formed and perfect. That was it: The Moment.
So it will be, though greater in meaning and import, in this time before Easter, and I will wait for it with an open heart and hard work. In the midst of the chaos, I will watch for the transformations that do happen, that are miracles, too often unnoticed in the middle of a crowd.