“For Everything There is a Season…a time for every purpose under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to reap.” (Eccl 3:1-8)
and therefore presumably a time to look upon juggling kittens as an easy day. Honestly, hanging off the edge of a precipice and screaming into the abyss might actually be preferable to our current situation (but that is strangely the type of thing I like doing anyway)
As I write this article at the end of December and at the end of a global annus horribilis I am pondering whether my words will be irrelevant by February? Will the pandemic be over? Will Covid deniers have stormed the bastille of trusted medical advice and begun to erect their own statues dedicated to Facebook? Will I have finally completed the wardrobe project which was begun a year ago and will my four year old learn to go to sleep before the witching hour? I am going to suggest a tentative ‘no’. But with times like these who knows?
For everything there is a season… so both hope and despair are allowed. The difficulty for many of us at the moment is that life does not feel very seasonal at all. Just a long grey wintry night. Certainly, humanity has endured worse but we do need to recognise that the pandemic has negatively affected people in various different ways. For some, staying at home is a terrifying prospect. Calls to the Vancouver domestic violence hotline are reported as having risen by 300%. The need for greater suicide prevention funding amongst working men has also risen dramatically, as have suicide attempts. These are two examples to back up the statement that, “people are NOT okay”.
So what do we do with all this darkness? In times of darkness, we make room for the light or we at least put our hand into the hand of God that we may go into the darkness. During this pandemic we have journeyed with God in a very different way. Our churches moved to meeting online or over the telephone and we have had to work hard to create some kind of seasonality over the past year. Through all of this, God has walked with us and the church of God however different and often reduced, has journeyed on. We are now asked to continue this journey into Lent. As if things don’t feel penitential enough! But let me let you into a little secret, Lent is about building us up and not breaking us down.
Historically in Northern Europe, Lent fitted extremely well into the agricultural year. During past ages when people lived seasonally, with crop rotation and changes of work relating to the environment (some still strive for this life today) the calendar of the church was always there to assist and celebrate a life that was lived far more in conjunction with God’s creation than the busy urban lives so many of us fight through nowadays. For example, Candlemas hymns talk about winter starting to pass and spring being welcomed in the air. The word Lent, as used in the English language, is itself an expression of creation. The old word for Lent is ‘lencten’ meaning the time of the days’ lengthening or simply ‘springtime’. That a period of self-examination, denial, study and prayer would occur when the pantry was naturally empty, after a long winter and before new crops have grown, should not be underestimated. Historically, Lent was a heartfelt pragmatic way, particularly for Europeans, to make good an otherwise brutally challenging time of year. I remember growing up with many planting stories based upon the Easter moon (but that is for another day).
Making the best out of what we have is going to serve us well heading forward into 2021. Remember the generosity of the boy with 5 barley loaves and 2 fish? Yes, this Lent will be different, but it is still an opportunity to escape the grey monotony that has shadowed many of our lives during the pandemic and engage with a life-giving and enriching season of the Church. In these times of self isolation, social restrictions and increased anxiety the hand of God invites us to be enriched by seasons of our faith and to drink deeply from the well of new life. We are once more invited into living a happy and wholesome Lent, may the season bring growth and generosity to us all.
Blessings to you,