It was a pretty simple question. “How is your Lent going?” What was not simple was my answer. As a priest, I feel like my answer should have been, “It’s going really well,” followed by a list of things I am appreciating about the season. But this year, I have been having a hard time finding my Lenten rhythm. Part of the reason is that I scheduled a brief vacation right at the beginning of Lent, experiencing a powerful Ash Wednesday, but missing the first Sunday in Lent, the beginning of our digital Compline offering, and our first Wednesday night of worship. Being away also meant that I got off-schedule with our family devotional time at breakfast. Meanwhile, the book I planned to read with a book group for Lent got lost in the mail and had to be reordered while my fellow readers got ahead of me. I had expected to re-center at our Lenten Quiet Day, but that had to be cancelled. And so there I was on Sunday, left with this question about Lent, feeling like my Lent was not really off to a good start.
Part of the challenge for me is that I am a creature of habit. I like routine and order. I am able to focus more clearly when life is ordered in a regular pattern. I think that is why I like Lent so much. Lent encourages us to find a regular pattern – whether we have given up something daily, we are reading something devotionally each day, or we are praying at a particular time. Regular services are added, or maybe we just commit to not missing any of the Sundays in Lent. Regardless of our practice, the whole purpose of Lent is to create a rhythm for six weeks that deepens our relationship with Christ, and draws us out of sinfulness and into repentance and renewal of life.
But the more I thought about the question about how my Lent was going, I realized that perhaps the disorder of my Lent is forcing me to find the holy outside of the construct of patterns. So, yes, the book I wanted to read did not arrive on time; but its delay meant that I more fully enjoyed my vacation and was not distracted during my “away” time. Yes, I missed several routine things in the first week of Lent, but I also got to experience some incredible things while away – seeing the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine for the first time, stumbling into a city-wide Stations of the Cross designed by artists in New York City, finding beautiful religious artwork in churches and art museums, and even unexpectedly enjoying a midday Eucharist with my husband – something that never happens in my normal routine.
This year, I am beginning to think my new Lenten discipline might be finding the holy in the disordered chaos of life. It means I have to pay attention to the little moments of life where God is trying to break in: the blessing of a glass of wine with friends, the pure joy of a three-year old laughing, the sacred experience of holding a newborn baby, the power of a hug as someone’s eyes well up with emotions of fear or grief, the sacred invitation into pain as someone texts, calls, or emails what is on their mind. It is possible that I will regain some semblance of Lenten order as Lent goes on. But if not, I am feeling especially grateful for the ways in which God is present every day, even when I do not feel like I am making room for God. So, I suppose my new answer is that my Lent is going really well. How is your Lent going?