Lent, Daydreams, and the Dark In-Between: Part 2

by Mar 31, 2017Courage, Cultivate4 comments

It takes courage to reflect deeply and intimately on Christ’s journey toward and through the cross. But when we do, even if in small measure, we begin to glimpse his invitations and hope for us in the dark middle of our own unfolding stories and dreams.

For this part-two post, we’ll move more into some of those places of reflection mentioned in part one.

A Singular Gaze

I’m reminded and challenged in this Lenten season to gaze in a singular direction
toward the one I am invited to follow: Christ alone.

Lent is often seen as a season not only of reflection but also of relinquishing. This tradition is relatively new to me, so sometimes my participation is in small measure. This is one of those years. That’s why I am encouraged by Ann Voskamp’s 2016 post on why a failing lent actually succeeds. She began her post with these words:

I can’t seem to follow through in giving up for Lent.
Which makes me want to just give up Lent.
Which makes me question Who I am following
Which may precisely be the point of Lent.

The invitation and my activity of this season could be that simple: reset my focus on Jesus. Follow him only.

It was easy to write those last three words, but it is far from easy for me to do. My eyes and heart so readily wander from this Love through a Cross, the resurrected Christ. What I follow instead isn’t helpful: culture-defined goals, perfection’s call, voices of others or from myself that mock and discourage. These only pin me to the dark in-between rather than moving me through it.

So I dare to turn my gaze, and my vision fills with a love so deep and a wisdom so expansive I can barely breathe. My vision fills with him. I begin to rest and hold my hands open, offering to him the dreams of my heart.

A favorite prayer for me has become, “God, what is your heart?” For that person, for that activity, for this dream…for me?

When I turn, gaze, and follow, I begin to see.

Today as you reflect on the events of the story of Jesus going to the cross, what do you see?
Ask him what is his heart for you. Wait and listen. What do you discover?

From Darkness to Life

In reflecting on this unfolding story, Christ’s path through the cross, I feel the depth of the in-between, the dark middle of the story. Deeply discouraging for a time, it culminates in light and life.

I follow and the next question I want to ask is: Where are you going, Lord?

It’s rhetorical. I don’t expect an answer. I see where he’s going. I know the story and what is coming next in the in-between: the sacrifice, the cross, death. Part of me doesn’t want to look. I’d rather skip to the end of this story, to the good parts.

But I don’t skip, no matter how difficult it is to reflect upon and fully take in the events of Christ’s path toward and through the cross. In the in-between of the cross, the dark middle, I glimpse signs of redemption. I look. I watch. I take it in.

It changes me.

I can’t skip the dark in-between of my own story’s movement either. Really I have no choice, but I am given the gift of embracing, and I sense anticipation in the tension. God’s work in and through my season will also be redemptive.

The story of Christ on the cross didn’t end with darkness and death, but with life.

I embrace life.

What emotions stir when you steady your gaze toward
the darkest of moments of Christ and the cross—when you watch?
What do you see?
What do you begin to anticipate in your own unfolding story?

Toward Transformation

I begin to notice some of the intricacies of God’s design behind these events. Christ walked the darkest “in-between” path imaginable, but the ultimate result was redemption and the transformation of each of us and every thing about our lives, including our dreams.

Lightly brushing over the events of Christ and the cross doesn’t work for me. It pulls me in. There is something at the soul level that knows this is a story I am connected to: the horrible reason why it was needed, the love poured out, the beautiful redemption.

Such a dark in-between. Those who were there watching it all unfold, who loved Christ, believed him, must have felt sucked into unimaginable hopelessness. He said his suffering would be necessary. He said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

What did he mean?

Three days. Life overcame death. Light overcame darkness. Christ’s resurrection unleashed redemption, hope, and transformation.

My dream is small. My dark middle nothing in comparison. My questions, my discomfort, my waiting nearly inconsequential. But Christ came to redeem and transform. He folds into that all of who I am.

And light overcomes the darkness redeeming me, transforming my dreams and goals.

Eternal design bursts forth.

Leaning into a longer look into all that Christ walked through and accomplished through the cross, what intricacies of his design do you begin to notice?
Where do you experience redemption and transformation?
Where do you begin to see the marks of his design on your life, your unfolding story?

A Prayer

Lord, I desire to open my heart fully to you, to look to you, to follow you. Even if it means, in this Lenten season, that you take me to the depths of your story through the way of your cross. I trust you for you also lead me toward your resurrection, your redemption and transformation.

Use my own dark in-between to change me, to teach me to follow you with all my heart, to transform me and shape my dreams and goals. All that I am and do is in your hands, Lord, where all is shaped most intentionally and beautifully.

Here’s a suggested resource for moving more slowly and intentionally through a reflection on the events of Christ’s journey through his dark in-between: The Cross as a Journey. For some reason the link doesn’t consistently land visitors at the top of the page. You might find the top-of the-page introductory material about the history and background of the Stations of the Cross intersting, especially as it says more about the difficulty and darknesss of the journey of the cross, including how it relates to our own stories. Near the bottom of the page is a section that offers an eight-part meditation through the Stations of the Cross.


  1. Joy

    This is my hope in your words, “I can’t skip the dark in-between of my own story’s movement either. Really I have no choice, but I am given the gift of embracing, and I sense anticipation in the tension. God’s work in and through my season will also be redemptive.” I’m hoping with trust in my Savior Jesus and His work on the cross as I move through the dark in-between of it all. Beautifully written, Jan! Thank you.

    • Jan Kern

      Trusting with you, Joy. May Jesus keep filling you with deep hope as you lean into this season of remembrance of the greatest hope story ever–His difficult beautiful work on the cross!

  2. Karen Foster

    “My dream is small. My dark middle nothing in comparison.”
    So true. This lenten season, I’ve been more aware of the cost…..Jesus blood poured out for me. His blood cleansed me.
    His blood made me righteous. So I can enter into the holy place and enjoy the Lord’s presence.”

    Jan, I love your heart for Jesus.

    • Jan Kern

      And I love yours, Karen! Each one of these Lenten seasons holds such an amazing opportunity to remember more and more deeply the cost of the cross. May you be blessed in your reflections and in His presence!

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