It’s hard to believe that we are less than 5 weeks away from Holy Week which means we are well into Lent already. I love that the Christian calendar has “seasons” of preparation…the Advent Season to prepare for Christmas and the Lenten Season to prepare for Easter. As I grow older, I appreciate more and more the discipline of setting time aside to prepare for and anticipate the beauty of these bookend celebrations in the life of Christ…taking time to prepare makes them so much richer.
BUT as has been the case with ALL the holidays that have come and gone so far this first year without Rudy, Surprise! Surprise!, Lent feels different this time around too. A week or so before Lent began, Rolf and Olivia were discussing what they were going to “give up” until Easter (as is tradition) when I blurted out “I’ve given up enough this year. I’m going to pass.”…I said it in jest, initially, but the thoughts behind the words lingered which led me to reflect on it a bit.
The truth is, my sassy remark is exactly where my heart is…I do feel I’ve been in a looooong season of being forced to give up quite a bit…not only Rudy and a daily life as our family knew it but also my own physical abilities in recent months and things I love to do and certain dreams for my future. Granted, these are not things I willingly set aside for the purpose of focusing on and drawing nearer to God (which is the purpose of fasting from something meaningful during Lent) but the result has been the same nonetheless…to a comforting extreme.
The thing that strikes me the most in the snapshot of my life today is that as my world has gotten smaller and smaller over the past 7 months, God’s presence has gotten bigger. One of the primary purposes of both the Advent and Lenten Seasons is to make room for God in our full, cluttered lives and I’ve experienced over and over again that He will fill whatever space we allow Him to occupy…and given what I’ve experienced the last several years with Rudy and in the last several months mired in my own disease, there is great comfort in knowing that God is big enough to continue to fill the empty spaces left by my shrinking world.
I shared about my journey at a Westmont Chapel several years back and how at every significant crossroads in my life, I was led down a path that seemed to narrow my world and my impact on the world compared to what I planned when I graduated from college…it sure isn’t lost on me how the events that unfolded just weeks after Rudy passed away are a continuation of that same journey. I remember saying to God at some point during Rudy’s life “How much smaller can my world get?”. Are you kidding me? It feels like such a foolish question now! What a strange journey this is…but it is proving itself consistent in many ways and God has been consistently present in it all…filling spaces and bringing life to hardened, dead places of the heart along the way. Thankfully the reflections I shared that day at Westmont still ring true for me today, especially this prayer:
My prayer is that you recognize God’s grace in your life and experience the power within it…providing us hope in all circumstances, blanketing us with peace in all circumstances, enabling us to love one another in all circumstance, bringing purpose to all circumstances and allowing, at times, for heartache and joy to coexist in difficult circumstances.
My friend Emily sent me this amazing book of quotes she compiled over the last year organized in 40 daily readings to be read over Lent…this is her 9th book! (What a gift…thank you Emily! ) If you are a person who participates in the Lenten tradition, consider this from Emily’s forward:
“Ruth Haley Barton says, ‘unfortunately, most people reduce the Lenten season to the question, “What are you giving up for Lent?”. The real question of Lent is, “How will I return to God with all my heart?”.’ Along those lines, my friend Susanne talked about Lent in this way ‘it is not about becoming lost in feelings of brokenness but about cleansing the palate so that we can taste life more fully.'”
Now, that is rich! I love that and I look forward to exploring that some more in the weeks ahead. Blessed Lenten Season Everyone!