As I write this, we are just a week into Lent. Oddly, sometimes it feels like we are into our second year of Lent, as we still live with a degree of restraint and enforced quiet contemplation of some kind.
A poem by Donna Ashworth has been circulating through social media lately, depicting where we’re at these days. She writes:
“You’re not imagining it, nobody seems to want to talk right now.
Messages are brief and replies late.
Talk of catch-ups on Zoom are perpetually put on hold.
Group chats are no longer pinging all night long.
It’s not you.
We are spent.
We have nothing left to say.
We are tired of saying ‘I miss you’ and ‘I can’t wait for this to end.’
So we mostly say nothing, put our heads down and get through each day ...“
The poem continues, and encourages the reader to ‘hang in there’ and reach out ‘when the mood strikes.’ But it has clearly struck a chord; it keeps on showing up in my newsfeed. And people are commenting on it; particularly against the background talk of a “third wave” and new variants more contagious than previous ones. Border closures are extended month-by-month. And it can feel endless. Like Easter Sunday is never going to get here!
Lent is actually a season that reflects on times of waiting. Though only seven weeks long, it hearkens back to the decades – centuries! – that the children of Israel waited for their final rescue from a history of perpetual exile. It refers back to the years – decades! – the early Christians waited for the return of Christ. In the course of history, nothing happens quickly. Originally, Lent was established as a time of prayer, learning and personal spiritual preparation for one’s baptism on Easter Sunday.
For the generations of the already-baptized, it is a time of intentional contemplation, often supplemented with Bible study, disciplines of prayer and meditation. Some choose a sacrifice for Lent: giving up smoking, sugar, alcohol, other habits that have become too obvious to ignore. It is a period of self-discipline. And it can be a challenge to keep such discipline up beyond – way beyond – the mandated seven weeks.
A Buddhist book reminded me that life isn’t a journey of expectations fulfilled or unfulfilled, goals achieved or postponed, or lives disrupted. It is a daily experience of “it is what it is.” What can make this extended “Lent” so hard is when we judge it to be so. Perhaps this pandemic can serve to teach us the power of acceptance over judgment.
And reading that book led me then to the words of Peace Pilgrim, a woman who walked back and forth across the U.S. for three decades (1953-1981) with nothing but a few personal possessions in a pocket, to share her words of peace with thousands of people (and she has a book as well). These particular words seem so meant for this time:
“Live each day in the present moment.
Do the things that need to be done.
Do all the good you can each day.
The future will unfold.”