“The Walking Dead” and Lent

The first episode of the TV show titled, “The Walking Dead,” begins as its protagonist Rick Grimes wakes up in the hospital. A gun shot in the line of duty put him into a coma for months and there inside a severely damaged hospital building he finds himself alone. As he makes his way out of the hospital and onto the streets in search of his wife and his son, he soon discovers that the world has come to an apocalyptic end and the only way to survive is to find a cure for a disease that has turned humans into “walkers”— mindless, flesh-eating monsters.

What is most fascinating about “The Walking Dead” is that it quickly moves away from a focus on the monsters and the dangers they pose to human society. Rather, as the conflict shifts, desperation for survival begins to uncover humanity’s inner darkness; greed, envy, wrath, lust. As the show progresses, Rick and his fellow survivors grow increasingly weary of the evil that they find in themselves and the world around them and struggle to find hope in the midst.

As we enter this season of Lent, stories like “The Walking Dead” help us recognize the longing of every human soul and the unbearable weight of its restlessness. We long for things to be right and we know that they aren’t. Narratives we watch unfold on TV often echo the tragedy of our own world. It seems like we turn on the TV and more and more frequently hear about another mass shooting like the one that happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School killing 17 people last week. We live in a world where men and women use the internet to escape their relationships through social media, shopping, pornography – latching onto anything that can numb the pain. Families are forced to make unbearable decisions about leaving their homes during times of war and violence in hopes that their children might make it another day.

Yet for all these evils in our world, we know that too often they reflect our own broken desires. We feel anger (maybe even violence) toward our neighbor. We find ourselves easily addicted to all manner of things. We will do anything (even ignoring other’s pain) to make sure our own lives are comfortable.

Without the grace of God, transmitted to us through his Son, Jesus Christ, we all would live under the crushing weight of sin, helplessly restless as we grasp for something better. But Christians believe Christ came to break the curse of death and bring light to the darkness in our world. Through Jesus, our restless hearts our promised to find peace. Lent invites us all to look courageously into our own inner darkness with the expectation that Christ has overcome the power of sin. May we all see the light of Christ in the midst of our darkness this season.

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