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We think of Lent as being all about sacrifice, but it can also be about joy.
I was seven years old. Standing on the edge of a diving board for the first time, terrified I wouldn’t survive the plunge. The board dipped under my 70 pounds.
I looked behind me at the kids who were pestering me to hurry up and jump. I wondered what they would do if I asked them to move over so I could get down. Tar and feather me, I supposed.
Caught between ridicule and a jump into certain death, I stood there and shivered. Then I heard him: “It’s all right, son. Come on in.” I looked down. He had dived in. He was treading water, awaiting my jump.
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I could see his tanned face, his bright eyes assuring and earnest. Had he not said a word they would have conveyed the message. But he did speak. “Jump. It’s all right.” So I jumped.
Twenty-three years later the tan was gone and the face was drawn. But the eyes were still bold and their message hadn’t changed. He knew I was afraid. He perceived I was shivering as I looked into the deep. And somehow, he, the dying, had the strength to comfort me, the living.
I placed my cheek in the hollow of his cheek. My tears dripped on his hot face. I said what he wanted to but couldn’t.
“It’s all right,” I whispered. “It’s going to be all right.” When I raised my head, his eyes were closed. I would never see them open again. He left me with a final look, one last statement of the eyes, one concluding assurance from a father to a son: “It’s all right.”
Staring at my reflection in the Vietnam Memorial wall I was suddenly aware of my own eyes staring back at me almost like my father’s eyes. We face our fears, we grow in our struggle, adversity deepens our faith.
There is always something wonderful and surprising around the corner on earth and beyond. That is the sacrificial truth of Lent, the music that builds to the miracle of the Resurrection.