Lenten greetings, dear friends,
A couple of weeks ago, as I was en route to a visit I’d been looking forward to, I received my annual mud-season humbling, much earlier than usual. As my “Little Prius That Could” attempted to climb the steep hill leading to my destination, I could feel the ter- rain softening beneath me. My tires churned in the mire, flinging no end of muck into my undercarriage, prompting me to complete the ritual humbling with my standard line of self-inquiry: What was I thinking?
Fortunately, this time, I managed to escape and trudged my way back to solid ground. While on my way back to the church, the loud rhythmic patter of crumbling clods knocking around beneath me somehow got me thinking about Lent. Traditionally dur- ing this time many of us identify something significant to give up for the season—for example, “fasting” from participation on a social media platform or from a certain food or from a particular activity.
Ideally this “going without” creates space in which to contemplate and reorient our lives (again) toward the vision of love God has set before us. If this is a meaningful practice for you, if it yields good fruit—wonderful! Lately, though, I’ve been inspired by Dr. Paul Galbreath to think of Lent as a season that’s less about “giving things up” and more about “opening up to discover God’s presence around us,” especially in the natural world.
It is not at all incidental that this year the Lenten season begins in earnest with a spot- light on Matthew 4:1-11, Jesus’ Spirit-led sojourn in the wilderness—a mission-critical time of unlearning and relearning, of letting the logic and cadence of his landscape seep deep into his mind, body, and spirit. I wonder, what might we learn if we attune ourselves to our own landscape? What might we notice? And who might we become if we take these observations to heart?
For my part, I don’t think the muddy road was chastening me (or my poor Prius) so much as showing me how to open up—becoming more porous, letting God’s Spirit fill more of me, breaking up my rigidities, softening my disposition, slowing my cadence, and leaving a mark (lots and lots of marks, in fact).
Whatever form your Lenten practice takes (if any), may this season occasion for you a closer encounter with the divine and, in turn, more authentic, loving relationships than you’ve ever known.