Editor’s Note: Seminarian Bill VanWagner is at it again. Enjoy this timely Lenten hipster reflection.
I took up a new hobby recently that is really, really awesome. I started collecting and listening to vintage vinyl records. It is like the most hip thing possible right now. Vinyl records are awesome for a lot of reasons. Only artists who really actually care about the music they make will take the time and money to release their stuff on vinyl. And, only fans and listeners who are truly committed to appreciating the beauty of the art will bear the inconvenience to listen to them. Plus, vinyl records sound so much better than playing MP3’s through cheap computer speakers. Seriously.
In order to play vinyl records, you need a turntable, a receiver/amplifier, and a set of stereo speakers. The thing is, the modern versions of these pieces of equipment are a joke. Their ugly, tacky, and wicked expensive. Thus, Craigslist, thrift stores, and creepy hippy stores are the place to look for classic used equipment. If you’re lucky, you may find an estate sale where you could buy grandma’s old dust-filled stereo on which she listened to Puff the Magic Dragon, Frank Sinatra, and other hits back in her glory day.
The one problem is that this equipment often needs some maintenance. Stuff gets old, it falls apart. When I purchased my stereo from a collection of different people off of Craigslist, I really had no idea what to expect. I saw some pictures and whatnot, but pictures lie. Turns out, I got a pretty okay deal. Turntable was working fine, speakers were alright, but the receiver was in rough shape.
In order to fix this thing, I had to take it all apart. Since it was made in the 70’s, before people were into being efficient with things, there was like a million screws to be taken off just to even see the inside. Once I got in, I sprayed this awesome dust obliterating spray all over which essentially burns away all the dust inside this thing. I’m pretty sure this stuff would also obliterate your eyes, skin, and probably your bones too–it’s pretty awesome.
Then, after that, the next step was to repair any damages to the wire connections in the interior. Essentially, wires are connected to other wires, plugs, or boards by this meltable, formable metal called solder. In order to fix bad connections, I had to melt the solder using a soldering iron, rip the wire from where it was connected, heat the components with the iron, apply new solder, and remake the connection. Basically, its a painful process for the poor little receiver, but in the end, it sounds amazing.
This is so much like how God’s mercy works in our lives, especially during this awesome season of Lent. We come to God as imperfect, slightly broken, damaged beings. We have a little dust deep within our souls. Our connections are weak and damaged.
It would be really nice to say that God’s mercy works like a magic waterfall of skittles and unicorns where we just feel really cute and nice and happy because God loves us so much and we are like magic eagles that can soar to the heights of rainbows. #sorrynotsorry, but that is not always the case. Sometimes God’s mercy is a bit painful. It always hurts to recall moments of failure and sin. The realization of our own sinfulness in light of God’s great glory is a painful process of self-understanding and humility. We feel the hot metal iron of Jesus’ mercy melting away the bad stuff, ripping it apart, and putting it back together the right way. The amazing thing about this process of mercy is that, because Jesus obviously knows what is best for us, we come out with a deeper relationship with God and are enabled to live a much holier life than before. The pain is totally worth it.
My advice: take this season of Lent as an opportunity to let Jesus do a little dirty, painful repair work in your soul. Use your Lenten practice/sacrifice as a reminder of the pain of conversion and necessity for reliance on God’s providence. Most importantly, go to Confession. The Sacrament of Confession is the ultimate spiritual fix-me-up. This is where Jesus does the heating, melting, ripping, dust-obliterating, and rebuilding that our soul truly needs. Finally, always remember that, just like Lent, the pain of conversion and holiness is always followed by the incredible joy and peace of the Resurrection. With our eyes firmly fixed on Our Lord’s absolute domination of death, we can bear any pain this silly world has to offer, just beastin’ our way to Heaven.
And if you want to be really cool, find your parents old record player and get that thing spinning again.