Lent. Literally, the lengthening of sun-hours each day as we emerge from the darkness of winter. Light emerges from darkness, and in Lent we acknowledge the darkness of both individual struggles and societal difficulties.
The whole world is emerging, slowly, from the dark grip of a pandemic. We share in this global experience, yet we each have our individual challenges, ones that may have been thrust into focus by the shifting tide of what “normalcy” means. For some, life has become an overwhelming daily battle on the front lines of this disease. For others, it’s been a time of withdrawal, swallowing losses in rapid succession. For some, it’s become a season of reflection and assessment. A friend recently confessed to me that it’s given her time to reflect on her use of time. And I think that’s worth looking at.
How did you and I spend our time before this pandemic hit? Were our activities rewarding and fulfilling? Did we make time for things that we professed to be important? Or were we overwhelmed with busy-ness? Have you had time to ask yourself how things might be different as you emerge from the isolation of quarantining and social distancing? I know it’s a question I need to ask myself. If we take a moment to be quiet, away from distractions, and really face that question, are we brave enough to listen for the answers? If we are, the answers are there, I believe. God speaks in that quiet. And if you don’t believe in God, the quiet will answer anyway. God, or the deep truth that lives in the stillness at the center of who you are, will offer guidance. The challenge is being willing to listen. This is light emerging from darkness. This is what it means to live a Lenten journey.
The first picture that comes to my mind is of the fabled three magi visiting baby Jesus in the manger. No one really knows how many magi travelled, guided by that bright star, to find the place. But this week, we celebrate their arrival. I wonder how each of them would describe his own journey and arrival in terms of an epiphany.
At mass this morning, our pastor reminded us of the definition of epiphany — that moment of awakening. Miriam-Webster defines it as a sudden manifestation or perception, an illuminating discovery. Our pastor suggested that the Covid-19 pandemic has been a catalyst of epiphany for many of us. What an interesting thought. All this social-distancing and isolation, hunkering down at home, has given us a new appreciation of what we once took for granted. Watching people being deprived of their health, livelihoods, and basic necessities has brought out a deeper and more widespread sense of charity and community. And many people have discovered what’s really important in their lives. Both societal and personal epiphanies have definitely occurred.
So, as many around the world celebrate the Feast of Epiphany, let’s each take some time to reflect on our own personal epiphanies of the past year. And let’s step into this new year with a better sense of what’s truly important and of how we can be our best selves going forward.
Today, I’m grateful for Thanksgiving Day and the completion of a year of traveling the Spiral path of Gratitude.
It began on Thanksgiving Day 2019 and has come, day by day, to Thanksgiving Day 2020. As I stated in the first Gratitude Spiral post, I wanted “to come around to gratitude over and over again, but be moved forward or outward, like a spiral.” I was aiming for a new place. A more grateful and appreciative place. And I think that’s where I’ve landed. What about you?
It comes in a variety of sizes. There’s the hope that wakes up with me in the morning, looking forward to a new day. There’s the hope to attain some level of success as I map out my goals. And there’s the momentous hope for a better future for all, and the hope that I can do my part in it.
Today, I’m grateful for the fact that my small everyday problems are mere inconveniences and not life-threatening or horrific or traumatic in any way. I’m blessed with so many things and people and experiences, and it’s important to keep that healthy perspective in the midst of this difficult year. 🙂
Today, I’m grateful for the opportunity to set goals and dream dreams.
Every so often, it’s good to step back and reflect on where we are in our lives, in our careers, in reaching for our dreams, and in traveling on our spiritual paths. We assess and then we look forward, daring to plan and to set goals. Even to dream. Lent seems to be a good time for this level of reflection and, for that, I’m grateful.