In Like a Lion and Out Like a Lamb: Lent, Reconciliation, and Resurrection
Every fall, I like to plant garlic. I plant garlic because it tastes better fresh and is super easy to grow, preserve, and plant again. I also plant it because it is the first thing to show up in the spring. Tiny green shoots appear and can even withstand late spring snow. In February, I start to search for them. They give me more hope than the groundhogs do that spring is on the way. Garlic is probably tied to my lifelong love of the saying “in like a lion and out like a lamb” for the month of March. As a child, I imagined it meant a real lion, roaring that spring was on the way. Even though the saying bears no scientific reality on the weather, it still gives me hope, especially when the early March snow falls and hides any sign of spring, that even when the wind blows, it is a wind that signifies change is coming – it is the roar of the lion. I’ve begun my hunt for signs of spring in earnest this year. I love spring – it is a reminder that God can and will make all things new. Right about now, I am eager for the reminder that God is at work in the midst of us and even in spite of us. And so, as February comes to a close, I am out seeking the garlic shoots in my garden and looking for a lion while out walking in the world.
In full disclosure, I’ve been looking for one lion in particular for most of my life: Aslan from The Chronicles of Narnia, or the God figure in C. S. Lewis’s world. In Narnia, it is always winter but never Christmas, the leaders have turned from God, and the people struggle with fear and hopelessness. And yet, in the midst of all of this, the people remind each other that Aslan is on the move. Aslan, indeed, is on the move, and once the children arrive, evil is overturned and hope is restored. I have always found great hope in the pages of The Chronicles of Narnia, especially in the belief that, even in the darkest of times, Aslan is out in the world on the move; we only have to look for the lion. Last Christmas, I bought myself a bracelet that says “Aslan is on the move” because it reminds me to look for the lion and that others are looking for Aslan, too. It’s a reminder of the importance of hope; it’s a call to follow and seek God in spite of wanting to pull the covers over my head.
March is a month that can be changeable, and it often falls within the season of Lent, a time that calls us to remember our fragility and changeable nature as humans. Lent reminds us that we can grow and change and that the brokenness within us can be resurrected. I’m writing this at the end of February, a week after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, and a few days after learning about the drills my 3.5-year-old daughters experience at preschool to prepare them for an active shooter. I’m feeling pretty sad about the world, and I’m really feeling the weight of Lent: the importance of repentance, the importance of reconciliation, and the importance of embracing a call to justice, all while trying to keep my children safe and raise them to not be fearful and to be advocates for justice and reconciliation. As I watch the young people in my community and around the country speak out for change, I am reminded of the garlic shoots and Narnia. I see these young people speaking the truth with love to all of us, and I hope that we are waking up and hearing their cries that Aslan is on the move. I hope we will be wise enough to stand alongside them, just as the animals of Narnia joined with the four children in their story as they all sought out Aslan, and I am grateful for the many who already have. The young have called out to the adults throughout the history of this country, and they are often a very powerful source of energy for change. I am grateful for their passion and hope, and I pray that my children will be inspired by their stories, like I was inspired by all of the young people that led the Civil Rights movement when I was a young activist.
As I write this, I realize that, for me this Lent, I am learning to deal with my fragility as a mom and with the fact that the realities of my childhood – that school was a safe place; bullies could be blocked out when you got home; and kindness, civility, and gratitude were normative – are not the realities that my children will face. I am clinging to the hope that Aslan really is on the move, that God is on the move, and that God created each of us to be signs of love and goodness, but that in a broken and hurting world, we forget this and need Lent to remind us and reconcile us to a God of love. So we, too, are like little sprouts of garlic – pushing through into the world as a sign that change is coming, that God can and will make all things new.
As we head toward Easter and are reminded that resurrection can only come with death, may we be willing to see those things in our lives that are in need of resurrection: patterns that no longer bring us life, fears that limit the person God dreamed we would be, and narratives about who we are as a people that diminish the reality of who we are. We need to experience Good Friday so we can be resurrected and emboldened in our work within the Jesus Movement. At Easter, may we find new life, new hope, and new strength to face the challenges of the world we live in. May we then be signs of the same hope to others, to strengthen them in their journey to be less afraid, to love more deeply, and to walk with us as we seek God. I don’t have any answers, but I do know that Aslan is on the move, God is on the move, and God is calling us to come and seek where God might be found with grateful, hopeful hearts.