Lent snuck up on me this year. I had been enjoying the Epiphany season in all of its light and glory, rushing through a typically brutal pace of life and teaching and writing and parenting, and then all of a sudden, we were observing Ash Wednesday. Before I had a chance to adjust my mindset, I found myself sitting in almost total darkness in the sanctuary on Wednesday night, our pastoral staff and worship leaders dialed into an appropriately solemn mood, as ashes were placed upon our foreheads to remind us of our mortality.
The main news story of the week—Coronavirus—seemed to fit right in with the somber tone.
A dear friend texted me Wednesday, asking if I had made any sort of plans for a Lenten practice this year. I hadn’t. If I’m honest, I hadn’t even thought about it. Like I said, Lent snuck up on me this year. I was too busy to prepare.
Yet Lent itself is a season of preparation. It asks us to slow down, even if we aren’t ready. Most of us lead lives that are far too busy, anyway. How often do you ask someone how they are doing, and they simply respond: “I’m busy”? I find that myself cringing whenever the words “I’m busy” come tumbling out of my mouth.
Many—most?—of us lead overcommitted lives. It’s in the cultural waters right now. Life is busy. Thomas Kelly has said that our culture creates “absurdly crowded calendars of appointments through which so many pantingly and frantically gasp.” Sound familiar? If you work or parent or go to school (or all three), you probably feel like you are too busy. There’s no shame in it. Sometimes it is actually a mark of pride: “I am an important person. I have lots to do.” You feel busy, you feel needed and worthwhile.
But Lent is a time for us to slow down, to realize that we are typically moving too fast, and to become grounded again in an awareness of God’s presence in our lives.
Ashes to Ashes. Dust to dust.
Slow down. Savor this thing called life. Pay attention to the sense that there is profound goodness in the present moment, if you will just stop for a minute.
Slow down. Take a deep breath and enjoy it. Let the world go on without you for a minute. I promise it will be okay. It will be okay if you put down your phone, if you inhale slowly and give thanks for the gift of life.
Slow down, even if you’re just now thinking, “I should do something for Lent.”
Slow down.
Slow down.
This will be one of my Lenten practices for these 40 days in the wilderness. If you haven’t made plans yet for Lent, and especially if you were too busy to even think about it, I invite you to join me on the journey. Blessings to you all in this Lenten season of preparation.