A couple of weeks ago, we noticed a foul smell around our house. Suffice it to say that many years of occupancy had backed up the plumbing and our septic system was overwhelmed. Enter the Precious Exhauster. A team of men and this truck pulled into the yard and basically sucked all the years of muck out of the buried tanks. They inserted a huge hose, turned on pumps, and within half an hour all those years of waste were emptied. Then some hospital workers opened up the system and washed things through. It was a pretty disgusting reveal of just what is under those concrete covers, but a huge relief.
This is the season of Lent, one that I did not grow up with but have come to appreciate as an intentional rhythm of the year of worship. We are half-way through a period that precedes Easter with 40 days of seeking God, modeled after several Biblical examples of fasting and prayer. Elijah and Jesus fled to the desert, and threw themselves upon God's provision alone. Lent is a time to fast from that which we normally depend upon, to clear space, to focus intention. To prepare for new ways that God is moving and working, to align our hearts to that purpose.
The exhauster truck reminds me that my heart needs to be cleared out. Petty thoughts, jealousies, disappointments, failures, poor choices, conflicts, selfishness, festering wounds, these all percolate, sometimes hidden, flushed, covered. Until there is no more hiding the seeping sewage. Jesus doesn't just spray some deodorizer; He offers a complete cleaning. When we fast from something that distracts or numbs, we come face to face with the reality of our need for radical solutions. And holding onto our sewage would be as absurd as protesting this crew and accusing them of stealing our property. The good news is that Jesus offers continual cleaning, creating space for something that is better, sweet, pure. Our family is reading Wright's meditations for Lent based on Matthew, which starts with the challenge towards humble willingness to be open to new ways God might work, new paths He might call us to, bringing new Kingdom values into a world that is full of muck. I fear emptiness, the empty nest which looms, the emptiness of transition, of loss, of grief, of aging, of inadequacy. But this Lent I'm challenged to faith that emptying is creating space for something as startling as redemption, for something as precious as God himself.