In many cultures there is an ancient custom of giving a tenth of each year's income to some holy use. For Christians, to observe the forty days of Lent is to do the same thing with roughly a tenth of each year's days. After being baptized by John in the River Jordan, Jesus went off alone into the wilderness where he spent forty days asking himself the question of what it meant to be Jesus. During Lent, Christians are supposed to ask one way or another what it means to be themselves...to answer questions like this is to begin to hear something not only of who you are but of both what you are becoming and what you are failing to become. It can be pretty depressing business all in all, but if sackcloth and ashes are at the start of it, something like Easter may be at the end. ~ Frederick Buechner
So what does it mean to "be ourselves"?
I don't have the answer. But I believe the search for that answer includes looking deeply inward and finding the places of darkness inside us that prevent us from fully answering the call to be loving and forgiving people. I think it is important to uncover our inner darkness and shine a light on it, instead of pretending it doesn't exist. How can we live in community if we don't recognize the ways in which we ourselves create barriers around and within us? How can we shed our own prejudices and judgements if we don't acknowledge their existence? Let's face it, we all have them. Who among us has never gotten on a self righteous high horse? Or shied away in discomfort from someone different...and such discomfort often stems from inner prejudices we don't even realize are there. But with honest reflection and self awareness, we can shed the harmful attitudes lurking within. It might be a painful process sometimes but, as Buechner says, something like Easter may be at the end. As we let God's light illuminate the dark corners of our heart and love others as we would be loved, we can become who we are called to be.