Well here we are again in the season of Lent, the time where Episcopal churches all over the country are decked out in their purple vestments and all the shiny stuff is taken off the altar. Lent is traditionally a time of solemnity, contemplation, and denial, but I believe that it also offers a great opportunity for an individual to grow not only in their faith but in all areas of their life. For myself, I’ve decided to make Lent a time of creating positive habits that will continue with me long after this season has passed. Rather than take away I’ve always preferred to add instead. My initial goals for Lent were to meditate, exercise, and do something creative every day. Accomplishing at the very least two of these things was considered a victory in my book, especially since I feel as though I’ve been neglectful of my physical health for awhile now. Starting with the day after Ash Wednesday I began working out and did so daily with only about two days rest per week for about two straight weeks. My daily meditation practice was also going swimmingly, with me taking at least 10-15 minutes every evening to breathe deeply, relax, and contemplate.
Then, life decided to throw me a little curveball made of ick – I got a really awful combination of both a chest cold & allergy symptoms. This put me out of commission for about a week when it came to my Lenten goals, as I found it to be rather difficult to work out when not being able to breathe very well. Now, however, I’m feeling much better and have already started working my way back on track. I completed a small painting last week, went on a 2.5 mile walk with my husband Monday night, and have started meditating nightly again. I cannot tell you how beneficial working out physically, creatively, mentally, and spiritually has been for me. It feels really good to be able to accomplish things, no matter how small.
Thinking about this season in a “bigger picture” way, I can see the connections and commonalities between this time of the year both in the church calendar and in the natural world. Liturgically mirroring the forty days Christ spent in the desert after his baptism facing temptations, these are the days in which a person is encouraged to take the time to face their own shadow self: growing in their faith, getting closer to God, and through acts of self-denial get to know what really nurtures them and what can be left behind. It is a time of both reflection and development; time spent working on one’s self, ideas, and projects; separating the spiritual wheat from chaff; finding out what nourishes you as a whole person to help you grow into your full potential; time spent in the darkness before bursting joyfully into the light that is Easter.
Likewise, this is the time of year when actions are taken in preparation of welcoming new plant & animal life, and the symbols of renewal and rebirth surround us in our world. Now is the time when gardens are beginning to be tended to again after a dark winter’s hiatus; plots are dug, seeds are planted, flowers are beginning to bloom, trees are budding and flowering in the warming air. Before you can harvest you must sow, and the hard work must be done before cultivating a beautiful garden. This is true both literally and metaphorically. As is so often the case, our spiritual disciplines and the natural cycles of the physical world mirror, compliment, and inform one another. To phrase it another way: As above, so below. I’ve always been drawn to nature and felt comfortable incorporating Earth-based observances and practices into my Christianity, so to see that already traditionally represented within my church feels good. It feels natural (ha!).
How are you choosing to observe Lent? Have you subtracted or added this year? What lessons or observations have you come away with so far? Feel free to share!
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