The weight of this sad time we must obey
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
-William Shakespeare, King Lear
We speak often what we ought and rarely what we feel. Feeling is not holy, it is not palatable or soft enough for pious teeth. We say what we ought because being Christian is someone we ought to be, and any good Christian knows that if we speak what we feel then we may need to admit we are someone we ought not to be.
Much of the world is quarantined as I write. It is prophetic, at least poetic, that the word quarantine comes from the Italian quaranta meaning forty and quarantina meaning a forty day period, and meanwhile, here we are in the forty days of Lent, of death, of chaos, of numbness, of pointlessness, of boredom. Resurrection is coming, but if we are faithful to this season we cannot pretend to be unaffected by its death. As Shakespeare writes, “this sad time we must obey.”
Lent has forced upon us an invitation to undergo and yet we are surrounded by a temptation to overcome as we tune in looking for a way forward. It is the same triumphal temptation Jesus faced to turn stones into bread during his forty days in the desert. It is that false-easter that assures Jesus, he will surely not die, and always assures us that no weapon formed against us will prosper, but the truth is that Jesus does die and weapons do prosper, cancer and viruses do prosper, corruption and injustice do overcome us. Yes, my faith tells me that Easter is coming, but this loss, this desert must be obeyed.
Fredrick Buechner writes this about Shakespeare in reference to King Lear, “What [Shakespeare] ought to have said in his play was one or the other of these--despair or hope--but instead what he said was both of them and thus something in a way more than, and different from, either. What he said was what in the deepest sense he truly felt. He looked into the dark heart of things, which is to say into his own heart and into our hearts, too, and told as close to the whole truth as he was able.” (Telling the Truth, 6)
We are being given the opportunity to face our darkness and let it speak what it feels, not what it ought to say. This is rare, yet this is what the world needs right now. This is what I need right now both from myself and from others. I don’t need a sermon on lament that ends with an empty tomb. I don’t need songs of victory over death because this Lent death is not just metaphor, it's real and leaves me without a song. I need to speak what I feel and through that find neither despair nor stale hope, both of them and thus something in a way more than, and different from, either. I need to hear I’m loved and I need to tell people I love them. I need to feel remembered because right now I feel so dismembered. I need to feel that I’m not the only one self soothing and numbing out. I don’t need to get by, I need incarnation, an embodied Voice in the midst of this disembodied life.
So, receive this invitation. Look into the dark heart of things - into your own heart. Let what has been hidden speak and give it the freedom to say as close to the whole truth as it’s able. There is no need to overcome, just listen and feel opened. This is hope and despair, Easter.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,