If you read my post last week, you’ll know that I decided not to give up a specific material item for lent this year. Today I have a lent update. I have decided that, this year, I have a lent necklace.
This necklace has a story. At my 35th birthday supper, my husband nervously handed me a gift bag as my 5 year old son looked on bursting with excitement. He explained that he had taken Josiah to the mall to help him pick out a gift for me, and Josiah had immediately chosen the gift I was about to open. “He insisted it was the gift he wanted to get you,” Dallas explained. “He wouldn’t even look at anything else once he saw this.” I could tell Dallas was giving me a little bit of warning: “This might suck,” he was saying. “But your kid chose it, so BE COOL.”
But I didn’t have to “be cool.” I loved it right away. It was a brass necklace, not expensive and not fancy, with two pendants hanging from two different chains. One was a bird cage, and the other was a bird.
That birthday was a complicated one for me. Two months before my sister, Roxanne, had been told that she no longer had any options for treatments after seven years of cancer. She was still doing well when I opened that necklace, but the reality that the 35th year of my life would be the last year of my sister’s life was heavy on me that birthday. I knew neither Dallas or Josiah had been thinking about that when they bought the necklace. But in that simple image – a bird and an empty cage – I felt hope. I thought that my sister’s life would soon be like that bird’s – free from the cage of cancer. Free to new life. It was perfect.
This Sunday as I got ready to head into a very-lonely worship service, 11 months into online church and 10 and half months into me being totally over it, I ran my hands over my jewelry to select something to wear with my outfit. I paused at my “bird necklace,” and thought “This works.”
For this lent, I am preaching about freedom. My sermon this past Sunday asked “Is this book a chain?” and I would be holding a Bible and a heavy chain up together, asking again and again what the Bible was really meant to be. Spoiler: It isn’t a chain. It’s a lot more like a bird free from a cage.
I didn’t think anyone would notice my subtle sermon illustration in my necklace, but I knew why I was wearing it. I knew that this lenten season I needed all the reminders that I could get about God giving freedom. I need reminders that God’s story is not one meant to oppress us, but one that is meant to set us free. I need reminders that the cages I live in won’t trap me forever. I need reminders that God has freedom and new life for me as much today as he did back when I turned 35. And I need reminders that I am called to help open the cage doors for others. Once again, it was the perfect necklace.
I put it on, and I preached a sermon to a video camera and I talked about the freedom I believe God has for all of us. I felt the heaviness not only of the ways the Bible is often used to oppress others, but I also felt the heaviness of how trapped I felt in ways of doing ministry I never wanted to do. When the day ended, and it was time to take the necklace off, I paused as I hung it up. Maybe….maybe this was something I should keep wearing. Maybe I need these reminders every day this lent. I need to remember that the story of God will always set me free. I need to remember that I am called to seek freedom for others.
So this lent, instead of giving something up, I’m putting something on. I’m putting on a necklace. I’m putting on a reminder that captivity is not where the story ends – not for me, and not for anyone else. May I be a freedom fighter. Even as many doors stay closed, may I keep working to keep the cage doors open.