I Crave Lent

Holy Wisdom Monastery Benedictine Reflections 14 Comments

By Alison Long

If you would have asked 12 year old me what Lent was about, I would have said it was about giving something up. I would have described it as a season of going without, in order to prove something (though I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what exactly). I would have told you it was about rules and what you couldn’t do.   

If you would have asked 25 year old me (now, a much more sophisticated seminary student) what Lent was about, I would have said it’s about drawing closer to God. My elevated understanding would suggest actually adding a practice, rather than giving one up, in an attempt to deepen one’s relationship with God and spirituality. I probably would have given you a list of things you could adopt. I would have told you it was about being more and what you ought to do to get there.  

If you ask me now – a lonely, discouraged, pandemic-weary parent what Lent is about, I would tell you it’s about freedom. It’s a season-long opportunity to sink into the darkness and the despair and the sludge of life and to simply BE in it. To learn from it. To get comfortable enough being uncomfortable that you realize God dwells there, too. It’s a reminder that things are visible in the dark that we can’t see in the light, and they might even be beautiful. I would tell you it’s about discomfort that breaks us open in new ways, making us acutely receptive and ready to experience the holy.  

I crave Lent – every year. I don’t know if it’s the proximity to spring and the weariness that always sets in partway through winter or that as I get older, life gets harder in ways that feel impossible to understand. This year, Lent feels like a root in the midst of three years of COVID, accelerated climate change, bitter partisan politics, and war in Ukraine. Lent is the season for all of this. For acceptance. For recognition that life is hard and there are times, sometimes that last much longer than 40 days, when it feels like the hard will never lift. If you ask me now, I would tell you that Lent is a season of permission to feel it all: the weight and the fear and the panic and loneliness and the despair. And I would tell you it’s a season that ends. And there is beauty in both of those truths.  

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Comments 14

  1. Thank you, Alison. Holy Wisdom, indeed: “Lent is a season to feel it all.” My heart adds that the season is actually “Lent-Eastertime” with the great turning of the Three Days after six weeks. Peace and all good,

  2. Thank you for this reality based Lent perspective, Alison. This year, it really does feel like life is hard and the hard will never lift. And sometimes I think I’m the only one who feels that way – it helps to know others sometimes feel this too.

  3. Alison, your insight: “It is a reminder that things are visible in the dark that we can’t see in the light, and they might even be beautiful.” is spot on for me. Eight years ago I began to lose my sight and I was a mess of fear, anxiety, doubt, sadness, and hopelessness.
    How could I possibly live sightless? I tried humor, and answer, “Easy, you’ll learn how to bump into things with grace and aplomb.” It didn’t work. How can I live without being able to drive? “I know, I thought, I’ll make a sight and slap it on the roof of my car, “CAUTION, BLIND DRIVER!” I tried denial, “This isn’t really going to happen, there’s a cure just around the corner.” Yea, right! I went to bed and pulled the blankets over my head. Pretty quickly, of course, I realized that was not too smart and decided, “I’d better start taking advantage of the sighted time I had and get up and keep looking. ” Besides staying in bed oddly gets weak and tired very quickly.
    One of the first things I noticed was that I began to be unable to see clearly in the dark. Everything was basically, black on black on black with a little gray-black thrown in for contrast. Consciously seeing contrast for the first time in my life was a real, dare I say, eye-opener!
    I savored it and also have grown to see the very fine edge of everything. It’s an almost thread-thin bright white light against another thread-thin line of bright blue light framing everything that my mind’s eye never noticed before because it didn’t have to. The white light and the blue light are rock-solid and magnificently precise. One could say, they actually glow in the dark! It’s quite beautiful in fact. I’ve even played around with the idea that it’s too bad others can’t see this. But then I realize it’s a gift I’ll just have to share. So there you have it. Enjoy! Dennis

  4. Alison, I felt what you wrote. The line that stuck with me was “it is a season that ends”. What an ending! Or beginning. Thank you for the first Lenten reflection that hit me where I needed it.

  5. Alison,

    Thank you for open-heart.

    “The charity of self-erasure makes possible dialogue, transformation, and most important, the abilty to love and be merciful.” -Beverly Lanzetta “The Apophatic Christ”

  6. Yes, I have words along the same lines; Alison: Lent is root. and what a wonderful perspective as James can observe, a turning of Three days, an arrangement of our winters’ solitude, so slowly that one can grow.

  7. People : “you are like” ( children) crying in the town square – we have piped to you, “(each other )” and you
    have not danced “. If you can’t publish comments that I was so thoughtful, to include James, will you listen to this quote from Jesus of Nazareth?

  8. Amen, Alison, thank you for your prayerful and practical reflection. It seems we’ve been enduring a Lent for more than two years now. We have given up much to gain a new view of ourselves and of the world. We turn towards the Christ in new ways. We turn towards renewal, resurrection.

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