Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility


By Eric A. Clayton

My wife and I have been watching the new Apple TV show “Shrinking.” It’s delightful television featuring an incredible cast: Jason Segel, Jessica Williams and Harrison Ford. Segel’s character, Jimmy, is a therapist struggling to deal with the death of his wife, his strained relationship with his daughter and his own frustrations with those who seek him out in need of therapy.

We know how to solve their problems, he claims. Why don’t we just tell them the answers?

And so, against the recommendations of everyone around him, he does. He tells his clients exactly what he thinks they should do to feel better.

The show’s theme song, “Frightening Fishes,” by Ben Gibbard – the lead vocalist of Death Cab for Cutie – and Tom Howe, is equally delightful – and illuminative. The refrain goes like this:

Help me carry this weight

That’s dragging me down

Pull me out of the drink

Before I start to drown

Let the wreckage all sink

To where the fishes are frightening

I want to hear myself think again.

As we begin our journey through these 40 days and commit ourselves to discovering the beauty hidden in the desert of Lent, I think this song – the first of many you’ll be invited to reflect upon this Lent – gives us direction.

It’s quite clearly a call for help, right? But it’s also a recognition that the help we need isn’t a quick fix, an obvious answer, a band-aid. No, it’s a process, and it’s one we need companions to accompany us through. Whatever the stuff is that’s weighing us down – you, me, your neighbor, your kid, that guy at work – we need help shaking it off. We need help naming it and then stepping beyond it, letting that unnecessary weight sink to the depths of the proverbial ocean.

But that’s still not the end. Because then, once we’ve gotten a little breathing room, then we turn back to that voice within, to listen more intentionally, more deeply.

Later on in the song, we hear these lyrics:

I’ve been trying my best to concede

To cease to take, just receive

‘Cause there’s more than your love

That I need.

I wonder if we don’t hear echoes of St. Ignatius’ Suscipe prayer: a desire to give all to God and be content to receive solely that which God gives us. And what does God give? Love and grace.

This season of Lent is a time to receive the love and grace that God desires to give. Our Lenten spiritual practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving help us empty ourselves and our daily lives of all that stuff that is dragging us down, that’s keeping us from encountering God, so that we can hear ourselves think again, so that we can hear that quiet, still voice of God speaking.

And when we hear that voice more and more clearly, at times a whisper, at other times a great booming shout, I wonder if we don’t find ourselves challenged to look at our own lives and those of others with nothing but love and grace. Lent is a time to challenge ourselves, yes, but only in so far as that challenge helps us better embrace the beauty God has already placed within our very selves and every inch of creation.

Then, so inspired by that beauty, it’s all we can do but cherish it and share it with others.

Want to listen to “Frightening Fishes” for yourself? Click here!


This is the first of our Lenten reflections. If you have not yet signed up for our “Beauty in the Desert” campaign, you can still do so here!

a person smiling for the cameraEric A. Clayton is the award-winning author of Cannonball Moments: Telling Your Story, Deepening Your Faith (Loyola Press) and the deputy director of communications at the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. His essays on spirituality, parenting and pop culture have appeared in America MagazineNational Catholic Reporter, U.S. Catholic, Busted Halo and more, and he is a regular contributor to Give Us This Day, and Dork Side of the Force, where he blogs about Star Wars. His fiction has been published by Black Hare Press, the World of Myth Magazine and more. He lives in Baltimore, MD with his wife, two young daughters and their cat, Sebastian.