I know many Christians who loathe the season of Lent. They find the season to be heavy-handed, to be too somber and full of self-loathing, and to be a bit of a downer. I am not one of those Christians. Lent is probably my favorite season of the Church Year. There is an honesty about Lent that feels more authentic to me. I feel like we do not have to pretend in Lent – pretend to be happy, pretend to have our lives together, pretend to be perfect. Instead, Lent feels like a great equalizer – a time when we all confess our utter inability to live the lives we intend, and our utter dependence upon God. Add on top of that intentional disciplines, liturgies that articulate the tension of our sinfulness and goodness, and additional church programming, and I come alive during Lent.
But this year, I have been struggling a bit with Lent. I have gone through all the motions of Lent: I am reading a book with a study group, I am playing Lent Madness with my oldest child, and I am attending a weekly ecumenical worship service and fellowship gathering. I have also worked with our liturgical team to change up the liturgies to make them just different enough to shake up the senses. I am helping teach a bible study in preparation for Holy Week. I participated in the winter emergency shelter our church hosted last week. The Lenten “wheels” are all in motion. But I find this year that I am having a difficult time getting my Lenten grounding.
Now, it could be that my family has been in and out illness over the past month. It could be that the church schedule has been particularly full, leaving me working most Saturdays this past month. It could be that I’m still adjusting to my first full year at Hickory Neck, not having shaped a Lenten season here yet. Whatever is going on, I was gently reminded by my Spiritual Director once that there is no wrong or right prayer life. Our prayer life is a reflection of the rest of our life. The Director told me that it was no wonder that my prayers were happening on the go much of the time – because juggling a family of four and a parish means that prayers happen with the rest of life. In fact, it is unlikely that I will have an hour of prayer time every morning – because balance means finding varied ways to pray in various stages of life.
Remembering that instruction, I have been shifting my expectation of Lent this year. Since there is little likelihood that Lent will slow down, I am trying to catch meaningful moments as they fly by. Like how my seven-year old demands that she be allowed to go to Ash Wednesday services to get her ashes or how she begsto go to the winter shelter one more time. Like how a parishioner calls between drop-offs to talk about navigating the faithful raising of children. Like how the Great Litany shakes me to my core. Like how a sermon I prepared speaks to me on a totally different level as I am preaching it. Like how a conversation with a parishioner reminds me of the powerful ways we are living into God’s call to respect the dignity of every human being. I may not be finding long periods of silence, setting apart times of dutiful Lenten practices, or mastering a Zen-like experience at church. But holiness is happening all around me. My hope now is to savor each moment for just a bit longer, honoring the holy moments God throws my way in the midst of a chaotic season of life.