Yesterday produced a new word for me – Lenting. Kyle and I were on the weekly FB pastors chat, and he says something like, “I don’t really feel like lenting this year.” Aaaaah, that describes it perfectly! We went on to converse a bit about all the possibilities of what that feeling is. Coming up to a year of this weirdness and pain that is the pandemic, seemingly seeing ourselves at close to our worst on January 6, the rollout of vaccines that has had its stops and starts and ups and downs and wondering how much it will change how we live when hitting the horrible milestone of 500,000 deaths of people who have families and friends and colleagues and communities – and all that grief compacted to only a year. So yeah, I’m not sure I feel like Lenting this year either.
I watched a colleague’s “Tuesday meditation” on-line yesterday and her initial statement was that she knew it was coming from a place of privilege, but she was feeling like whining and so she did for a little bit. Part of what that tells me is that we’re likely in the same boat – something about misery loving company? It’s the last week of February, we’ve just come out of a polar vortex that reached our southern most states from the northernmost part of the world, and somehow the reality that once 2020 was over everything would suddenly better has hit the proverbial wall of not so much.
HOWEVER! Even if we don’t feel like lenting, it doesn’t mean that the season is lost! Traditionally these 40 days, omitting Sunday “little Easters”, of preparation focus on disciplines of prayer, alms-giving, and fasting. But nowhere does it say that list is exhaustive and only. The practices are meant to draw us into reflection about our relationship with God and where it is and is not. What else might do that for us in this particular chapter of history?
Yesterday I believe it hit 70 degrees. When I went out to get in my, you know, tough 2010 4-wheel drive GMC Sierra 1500 truck that still needs new tires, to go grab lunch, I did so without a coat! When I came back, Kyle was sitting on our concrete patio outside our entrance doors eating a salad . . . a salad, really? I looked down at my bag that included a good dose of french fries and smiled bigly – no worries, I provided that little “fall from roughage” for him as well. But I digress. He also did not have a coat on – and I realized, this is different. Um, duh. A 70 to 80 degree difference from last Tuesday at the same time. I didn’t think about it much more til after our pastor chat was over, and I was trying so hard to concentrate on work I really needed to finish, o.k., maybe actually get started first, and then finish. But I have these big old west-facing windows in my office, and my eyes kept wandering out to the blue skies and the sunshine and the fact that it’s no longer starting to get dark at noon – a little exaggeration about daylight saving time, but seriously.
Finally I gave in – the working, creating, writing, reading was NOT happening, it simply wasn’t. I called my parents to try and get some discipline back – they may have suggested it was o.k. to leave and enjoy some of the evening. Whaaaaat?!? Where was that when I wasn’t wanting to do my homework in high school??? Pastor Kyle and Stacy left in great excitement to deliver bibles to 3rd graders and their families. I hadn’t seen either of them that enthused and joy-full for so long, they KNEW it was going to be fun and the warmth of the day simply added to it. Then a couple other folks working in the office texted that it was time to go home, that I was the only one left in the building, that I would be locked in to be safe, and that finally, my dream had come true – I could completely be the boss of everything and everyone in the building!
I tried again to focus. I walked up to the front of the office to see if I had any highly important for the boss of everything deliveries, and/or to see if there were any Krispy Kreme donuts left, one or the other was more or less true. And none and none. Finally I gave in, I just gave in. I didn’t feel like LENTING! At least where the keep your nose to the grindstone regardless of circumstances is concerned. I packed up my stuff and got in my truck, rolled down the windows, and breathed deeply the sun and the breeze. I pulled to the threshold where the parking lot meets the street and turned left instead of right – toward the upper parking lot rather than toward Ridgeview which would have led me straight home. The thought that ran through my head was that I wanted to “check” the upper parking lot to ensure that no mischief was occurring – I know, I know, that’s usually me doing donuts out of frustration when the Krispy Kremes in the office are gone, allegedly. And then I found myself parked with my open window overlooking our outdoor chapel area, our labyrinth, and the grasses and trees of the east side of our property, and I turned off the engine. I simply sat there. I tried to convince myself to go walk the labyrinth which is a very lenting thing to do, but I didn’t – I simply sat there.
Gary, safety guy and member and great friend of Grace and this pastor, pulled up to see if everything was o.k. We both had our windows down and kibitzed about how gorgeous the day was, how great it is to have tree-lined property, how much he welcomes anyone who comes to walk the paths he and Penny have cleared through our northern woods with benches along the way and an escape from the hustle and bustle of a city, and then he chided me a bit that it was time for me to go home.
I sat for awhile longer and realized, maybe this year especially, lenting is not about right and wrong rules and regulations about relationship with God. This year for this pastor on this particular warm but still winter day, was about drinking in with my eyes, the spirit of life that weaves itself through nature and a community of grace that along the way has created outdoor worship areas that can fill tired vision with promise and depth and hope and simple gratefulness.
On my way out of the parking lot, this happened . . .
Each sort of reminded me that whether we’re looking up or down, the cross of grace is there to be seen, to be re-membered, to realize in its emptiness is the promise and fullness of resurrection.
Surprisingly, the work was still here to be done this morning, and nothing had crumbled by not finishing it the night before, go figure. Today everyone is back and the doors are unlocked, so I’m no longer the boss of everyone and everything, how fleeting the power, but my vision has changed a bit, so maybe I am lenting a little. This is what is sitting in my mind today . . .
“It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.”
-from the poem, “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley
We can make the decision, led by the power of the Spirit, how to respond to God’s calling us into “lenting” this year, and just maybe, that’s how God has always wanted it.