Today on our beach day, we all got sunburned. Every single one of us. Some to a greater degree (poor Emily) and some to a lesser degree (lucky Caroline), but to the last, we were all burned. But here's the thing: we were all applying, and reapplying, sunscreen. All day. The cottages where we're staying had leftover sunscreens from previous residents, and so we borrowed liberally from that basket.
Apparently sunscreen really does expire.
Some in the baskets were good, and others were, well, worthless for their intended purpose. There's a part of my left arm with a clear delineation where I used the last of the good sunscreen and then began to apply the old stuff. Others weren't so lucky, and are burned all over, or in much more sensitive places. In all, it was a ridiculously fun rest day before we return home, but we are all returning with sunburn.
There's something to be said here about preparation and it's importance - you know, not using expired lotions - but I think there is something that sunburn can teach us. It is a silent enemy, one that works as we pay no attention to the initial effects and even bask in it's source, the sun. But sunburn leaves a lasting impression, one that affects the very way we move our bodies. Though aloe may briefly soothe it, nothing but the course of time truly removes a sunburn. But even then, we want to return to the sun.
What if our Lenten disciplines stuck to us like sunburn? What if our practices actually had physical results, ones that motivate us to move and act differently? Of course, there is a pain with sunburn, and that is not the goal with Lent, but the constant physical reminder that we have encountered something beautiful and powerful, that something has warmed us and brought us joy, and that we are no longer the way we were because of that encounter. These are the kind of results I am hoping for from my Lenten disciplines, and I'm praying that for each of you as well.
Giving up delicacies or taking up devotional readings is good, but how much better if those practices worked like a sunburn, making us change the way that we live and move and have our being, and then drew us back to the source, not for pain, but for the powerful beauty of the light that we find in the encounter. For us all, then, I hope we are touched this Lent by the Son whose light breaks even the deepest darkness, and whose love burns away all impurity. That's what our Lenten practices should do: make us bask in the Son.
Simultaneously a sinner and a saint.