I am upside down and all turned around this Lent! On the one hand, there are all the traditional calls to introspection (not not too much), to repentance (but not too harsh!), to giving up and self-denial (but doing no harm!). On the other hand, I hear the calls to act, to affirm, to resist, to look for the places where the Light can get in. It did not help me that on Ash Wednesday, the liturgy and focus of which is very clear, it was also Valentine’s Day, for me the anniversary of my first date with my lifetime Beloved, and we were celebrating with sweetness and grace. To add to the confusion was the unbelievable act of terror and violence in Parkland, Florida, not far from where one of my beloveds goes to college. And there was the outpouring of unfiltered opinions and screeds that followed publicly in the aftermath. So where do I plant myself this Lenten season?
I also live in a body with ups and downs, among a people whose bodies have ups and downs. Will I know on a particular day whether I have enough sleep to be able to set out on my Lenten intentions? Will the diagnostic test take me in a different direction than I planned? Will the pernicious and virulent viruses and bacteria swirling around this year pass by me by or land in my throat? On a mundane and frivolous level, what should I plan to wear day to day–sackcloth and ashes or my dancing shoes?
I have hunkered down to what is basic. Each day I am asking myself: what does my soul need? To stay alive, to go deep, to become closer to the intention of the Holy for me today! And I ask myself: where am I encountering Joy? In breath itself, in creation, in the “littles,” and in the hearts, voices and bodies of those who live their truths unwaveringly. Sacred text grounds me in the constancy of the Holy One; poetry challenges me to find new language for what I believe and continue to believe; mystery stories amuse, divert and give me rest. My soul is refueled with energy and imagination, as I count not only blessings, but wonder and truth and grace.
Then, I am trying to see what the the day holds: a phone call, a change of plans, a lunch re-connection, some quiet reading, a trip to the doctor, a meeting. In each of those I am bringing a consciousness of Holy Spirit accompanying me, nudging me, illuminating me, holding me back. Some days it is a time to share Love–with snacks and coloring, with recommending a book, with listening. Some days it is a day to weep and mourn–with those who weep, with our children, for the grief of the world.
The Singer of Psalms knew the dilemmas: “My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors./Let your face shone upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.” (31:15-16). So each day I awake–rummaging around for soul food, catching the joy as it flies. Either way, whatever I am called to wear, to do, to sing, my heart and schedule are in Loving Hands. For this Lent, ending on another mixed metaphor–Easter and April Fool’s Day–that is enough!