How Long to Sing This Song?

 

The Lenten season is upon us.

And chances are that you already know it, especially if you spent yesterday in wild culinary debauchery.

Today marks the 40 days of preparation before Easter Sunday, a Christian ritual leading up to Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, undertaken by believers all across the world.

And if you take part, that means 40 days of some much-needed discipline, something to take your mind off the material comforts.

That means less chocolate, less TV, less tailgating. If you have reason to forgo the latter, I also recommend psychotherapy.

But whatever you choose to exclude from your life (or include, in some cases), this season is pregnant with meaning.

This number, this dose of 40 days, rings significant. And holy.

Consider these Biblical examples:

Noah endured 40 days and 40 nights of seasickness and zookeeper duties.

The Israelites wandered the desert for 40 years, thoroughly dusty when they finally reached the land of milk and honey.

Goliath strutted back and forth taunting the cowardice of the Israelite army for 40 days until David gathered his courage and stones and stepped forward.

Even Jesus face 40 days of hunger and temptation and steadfastness in the desert.

See? There’s something there.

This recurring number, whether in days, weeks, years, symbolizes a period of frustration. A period of hunger, temptation, fear. A period of trial.

Jesus warded off the devil. David quaked in his sandals. The Israelites feasted on manna day after day after day.

We all go through periods like this.

We work night shifts to support our craft, our families. We hold the hands of loved ones wrought with fear and addiction and sickness. We fill our lives with meaningless routines just to avoid the pangs of loneliness and dissatisfaction.

In one form or another, we all face trials daily.

We face minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, even years of pain.

As creatives we wake before the sun, climb in bed long after midnight, struggle with criticism, responsibilities, dry spells. And then there are those days when we wonder if we’re even cut out to live the artistic life. We doubt our stories, our sculpting, our chords, our prints, our work that means everything to us.

It may last for weeks. You may stumble on for years.

But at the end of these times, you’ll find what you’ve been looking for. You’ll find life, love, redemption, rebirth.

In “40,” the closing song on U2’s 1983 War album, Bono sings words resounding of Psalm 40:

I waited patiently for the Lord

He inclined and heard my cry

He brought me up out of the pit

Out of the miry clay

I will sing, sing a new song

 

We will all have our moments of 40 in life, and most of us will have our moments of 40 every day.

But keep soldiering on.

You’ll be rescued but not before getting dirty, not before you feel swallowed by frustration, not before you feel helpless and fraught with anxiety.

It’s an uncomfortable prelude to your promised land.

So take heart.

It’s only a matter of time until you find footing on steady ground, until you find the salve to heal all those scratches, gashes, and scars.

And in the end, you’ll sing a new song.

 

Are you in the midst of 40?