I did not know what Lent was until I came to college. I did not know what it meant to empty oneself for the Spirit, or to ponder the price of literal death. I searched for painted eggs instead of Jesus, for bunnies instead of repentance. I searched for promises backed by the frail echoes of my own words, and when they blew away with the wind, I did not try to retrieve them. I did not push or endure. Yet still the stone was rolled away, and I was saved.

I did not understand true joy until it became abundant. I did not feel the hand that shepherded me to green pastures, or led me beside still waters. I wept at the sadness that would not leave me, and I ran to my journal, never realizing that a different book could give me more guidance than sole catharsis. When I found that book, I clung onto the few words I could remember. Even when I walk in the valley of darkness, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. And he was with me.

I had not seen the narrow gates until I opened my eyes, one summer night before senior year of high school. I wept and raised my hands to the God that I now knew to be good, rejoicing in my return home, my being found after being lost, my life after death. I watched and watch many walk away from what I used to deem necessary and proper, and I longed to follow. I followed and follow, though I fall short.

I violate my fast; I fall short.

I shower others with affectations; I fall short.

 I lash out in pride; I fall short.

 I chase after security; I fall short.

 I lust; I fall short. 

I crave imperfect love; I fall short. 

I am human; I fall short.

But though I fall short and fall short and fall short, I stand tall in the house of the Lord. I look in the mirror and stare, because I cannot and do not need to hide. Three years ago, I would have pitied my reflection or tossed my hair or turned away. Now, I simply gaze at myself made new. 

The cross carried my burdens, and I am set free. 

By Lillian Yuan, Yale Pierson College ’21. Lillian is majoring in Economics and Cognitive Science.