So it begins. If it's Ash Wednesday (and it is) then today starts that "Lent Thing." Given the weather today, I found myself confusing my stories and metaphors just a bit--thinking that the 40 days of Lent meant it was going to rain for 40 days and 40 nights. Was I supposed to build a boat or give up chocolate? Tough choice, since I have no capacity to succeed at either one of those options.
Lent, of course, carries a freight train of baggage. It too often comes rolling in on the rails of tradition, indicting us, judging, condemning, guilting. It's a grit your teeth season for many folk, starting with the grit and dust of Ash Wednesday. It's a shame, really, that the season gets so limited and stereotyped. Sure, we could be indicted and even judged for plenty of "failings." Lord knows we fall short--daily--of the beauty and grace and goodness packed inside us. And while we could dwell on those faults and fractures, doing so won't change our history. Could we instead see this season as one of inspiration and invocation to something more? After all, the word "Lent" itself comes from an old Anglo-Saxon word for "lengthen." As in the days are getting longer, there's more time, there's light at the end of the tunnel, there's more to come. Lent could be an invitation to stick it out, to trust, as Wendell Berry says, in the "two inches of humus" on the ground beneath us. Something new and good could be stirring there, if we just give it some time to grow.
So yes, it begins today. My great hope is that this beginning of a new season will inspire us, not frighten us. Yes, the language of our liturgy will change. And yes, the change is challenging, as we adopt language for confession and practice the necessary forgiveness. In other words, we will be admitting our wrongs and trying to make amends. But isn't that a good thing to do? Doesn't it help to see ourselves more fully, honestly, and then act accordingly? What if we accept the invitation of the season, look honestly at our part in the human experience, and see something true? In truth, I think if we look we will see something good--fundamentally good.
In the Liturgy for Ash Wednesday we are literally "invited" to a Holy Lent. Not indicted, but invited. And I want to underscore that invitation. Consider our chances to gather as a community this season, and commit to them. Commit to connect. The invitation is there, and you'll find information here. And consider joining the conversation as we try to read one book together, a book the invites us to consider the fundamental goodness of every one of us, and everyone else, too. Here's where you can join that conversation. Really, just jump in and try it. Sure, it's an online conversation--a blog--but it's also a way to lengthen and deepen the experience of this season. The invitation and inspiration is there. Or here.
So it begins. Who knows where this will end?