"Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand."
This Lent, that phrase has struck me several times in a way it hasn't struck me before. If I have to come up with a reason for the difference, I'd choose to say it is because of how I've been learning to process my emotions differently, feeling them and figuring out how to work with them instead of against them.
It's the "at hand" part that strikes me. If the kingdom of God is "at hand," then that means that what I really want, what my desire is really aiming at, is right here with me, unfolding. This good thing is ready, poised, to fill my life. So, what am I called to? Repent! I always remember the phrase in Japanese used here: kaishin shite. The kanji looks like this: 回心 And if you can read kanji and translate the thought into English, the sense is "turn your heart all the way around." It makes me think of those lids that you find on some spice containers: you keep turning the lid around until you get the big, wide opening to show. If that good thing that I desire is at hand, I need to turn my heart to be open and to face the good thing. The point of repentance is to get ready to transact, to live with an openness.
I think this is why Lent hurts, to the point it does. We are called to get ready, to be open, to be poised ourselves, and then to wait. And to feel our emptiness apart from "the kingdom of God," that thing, that presence, that reality that our desire is turned toward. I cannot fill myself. I cannot satisfy myself. I cannot complete myself. I cannot heal myself. I need. I'm waiting, I'm open, and I need.
Perhaps that will make me panic. So easy, it is, to allow other things to fill me up, or to find reasons to shut myself back off, to turn around again, to not want to look like the fool holding the bucket when nothing is raining down into it.
I guess the great surprise for me has been to realize how this thing that I long for is right here, with me. I don't know about you, but I have sometimes had the experience of missing someone I was with, or longing to be somewhere that I already was. It sounds bizarre, but it comes from the ability to disassociate oneself from what is right in front of me.
Knowing that that which fills me is right before me causes me not to worry about looking like a fool or even consider shutting myself off or to bother with other fillers. When I really feel my desire and know what it is aiming at, when I have those two things working together, then this phrase hits me like an invitation to the most heart-breakingly joyful celebration ever: Repent! For the kingdom of God is at hand!