This post on a Year of Lent is written by Steve Matthews, Senior Consultant for the FaithX Project.
This time last year, churches and judicatories were beginning to come to the realization that their Lenten practices and Easter celebrations were most likely going to be impacted by the pandemic. Many imagined the worst would be over by Pentecost. We hunkered down, got creative, moved online, and looked forward to a more normal way of being in the summer.
Not only did the pandemic intensify and continue, we have also experienced trauma, anger, and injustice in the wake of George Floyd’s murder (among many others murdered as an effect of systemic racism). We lived through a volatile election season that culminated in the raid on the Capitol on January 6th and an impeachment hearing. It has been a horrendous year for us as a country… and this doesn’t even take into account the local challenges or those we have borne in our personal lives.
And now we enter Lent. A time when we traditionally take on a practice to help us cultivate a penitent heart and a deeper relationship with Christ – most often this is an act of abstinence from some vice or pleasure. I don’t know about you, but it feels like most of 2020 and 2021 have been a penitent walk in the desert, relying increasingly on God’s love and faithfulness through troubled times. It feels like the entire last year has been a forced celebration of lent.
I am wondering if perhaps this year, my Lenten journey might take a more life-giving, joyous, and verdant path. As I think about Easter, the kind of things that I feel will draw me closer to God are things that lift my spirit and refresh me. I love this poem by May Sarton. It points to simple acts that renew:
Here is a glass of water from my well.
It tastes of rock and root and earth and rain;
It is the best I have, my only spell,
And it is cold, and better than champagne.
Perhaps someone will pass this house one day
To drink, and be restored, and go his way,
Someone in dark confusion as I was
When I drank down cold water in a glass,
Drank a transparent health to keep me sane,
After the bitter mood had gone again.
So for me, my 2021 Lenten practice is not going to be an act of abstaining; I am going to take on a new life-sustaining behavior. I hope to offer one deliberate and simple act of kindness each day toward myself, toward a neighbor, or toward creation. This wakes me up and energizes me, and having walked through the desert of 2020, I think these glasses of cold water offered and received will draw me closer to God.
What about you? What does “cold water in a glass… transparent health” mean for you along this Lenten path?