Next week the season of Lent begins. For some this may cause frantic binges on all things containing caffeine, sugar and/or alcohol. For others, this may hardly incite a passive, acknowledging nod and yet still for others, this may cause a response of libertarian piety for all those unsophisticated souls who still fast to prepare for the great feast of Easter. In a culture whose calendars are captained by smart phones and apps, it is increasingly rare for us to be moved by a season beyond predictable greeting cards and holiday decor. These seasons-be they spiritual, soulful or secular-have a much needed purpose in our lives; they punctuate our plain places with celebration and solidarity. They break open our schedules and routines and bring us together; we gather in community and communion around these seasons, which testify to our lives, to our journeys and where we are headed.
Lent itself is a journey that invites us to awaken to a deep disturbance-to acknowledge that Ordinary Time has become just that-ordinary-and out of this hum-drumness emerges a question and a yearning. There is something that calls us to look towards an end, a destination of a soulful sojourn that reengages us with Holy Ground, which spurs faith onward. This needn't be a time of temperance, but of transformation. There is an invitation here to see these upcoming weeks as a pilgrimage, that something, some PLACE is calling to us, beseeching us to look deeper, GO deeper and be altered by the process. This is a call that summons us to the hidden life, the life of the spirit.
Your life is calling you to leave home-that which is ordinary, that which has become so very normal and so very expected-this season. Your spirit needs you to heed, to really begin listening for the reason behind this journey (and lucky us, one that happens annually!). It is time to acknowledge your surrender to the Spirit, who will "lead you into unpredictable adventures of the soul." (Sarah York, Pilgrims Heart, 5). It is time to pack your bags! However, I would speculate that the ritualistic forgoing of certain foods or habits isn't that which will heighten this experience; just like when you pack for that flight that weighs your luggage, or when you load up your backpack for a trek in the backcountry, you want to travel lightly. Absolutely take note of that which you carry in this season right now, and you may find that to lighten your load you may want to practice simplicity in some areas. This practice begins to awaken the 'pilgrim mood' in you; it summons the inner-sojourner who is readying for the road, always listening, always watching, always waiting for signs and signals from the One who is calling you.
The call of the season is upon us. The journey pilgrimage towards engaging The Passion is nigh-this is the time to center in and listen. Don't be dismayed if you don't hear anything or connect with something right away; that will cry out loud as you campaign away from convention and common places. This is a quiet time. This is a time to begin with focusing on what you love and what is difficult for you. These will be what you carry with you as you cross the threshold and journey into Lent next week.
We set out as seekers after answers, or even peace, that we cannot find at home so believe that a change of scene may be easier than a change of heart.
But as we set out to travel the interior roads of discovery, we discover how quickly travel can turn to travail and how really, there is no forward motion unless we've yielded to the hard, steep, dark places. Our annual calendar calls forth the need for a journey that will stretch us, that will bring us to our knees, that will bring us closer to the Creator of it all. U2's Bono sang the truth well when he piped, "If you want to kiss the sky, you've got to learn how to kneel*."
The ancient path is calling us to come. The road is ready. And there is sky, and all the stars that sparkle within, that will watch over our every step and be there to greet us at our arrival. And we will be kneeling together, and helping one another up, along the whole journey.
*"Mysterious Ways" as written by Adam Clayton, Dave Evans, Paul David Hewson, Larry Mullen, Angelique Kidjo