We've all been through a lot in the past year, which has made these two Lenten seasons more meaningful, and maybe this one in 2021 even a bit more so.
Lent is a time of self reflection. A time to take stock, if you will, and a period of commitment to self improvement. Many may decide to use the 40 days to kick alcohol, chocolate (a favorite), commit to a better diet or health. Others may choose to use the time to focus on other types of personal changes, such as letting go of fear or embracing an attitude of saying "yes" to life.
The magic of Lent, no matter how you honor the season, is that we make time for the silence to feel the presence of God. And this year, this silence has special meaning as we reflect on the past year and all those who lost their lives to Covid-19.
One could say that we've been pushed into the silence this past year by the pandemic.
It's been a year of deep reflection for all of us, and more for those who quarantined alone.
It has presented personal situations that have challenged our faith.
It's brought losses and redefined how we grieve when we cannot do so together.
It has forced us to appreciate life and the little things, like seeing friends and family casually and all of the other things we've taken for granted.
Yet, it has also allowed us to make time for things that have long been on our "To Do Lists" that have waited for a rainy day. Our full schedules of work, social activities, kids sports, events and more suddenly fell quiet and created room for the discovery of film, literature, learning a language or how to cook, pick up new hobbies and finding new ways to connect with love ones.
We've managed to find light in the little things and focus on doing more of the things that bring us joy; that help us grow and live full lives.
We've embraced a simple walk around the neighborhood and taken the time to bask in the sunlight.
We've learned to, as Tyra Banks so rightly copyrighted, "Smize" or smile with our eyes over masks.
We have used masks as a new way to communicate personal style and even humor.
We've had to embrace the silence around us, or make room for it in a home with children remote learning and parents working remotely.
We've learned to be more patient and friendly with one another, even donating more and giving to help those affected in our local communities.
We've discovered local businesses and neighborhood restaurants that are grateful for our support in helping them remain open.
And in these moments, there is God. The Holy Spirit has been revealed in us through generosity, service and grace and the past year. Just as it is revealed to us through the quiet of Lent, meditation and self-reflection.
Just like the daffodils starting to pop up through the ground as a sign that winter is over, there is a renewed faith as we come to the end of our Lenten journey and that of the pandemic.
The goal for every person's Lenten journey is different. The self-imposed personal challenges that mark Jesus' sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert for 40 days are different. Just like Lent, post-pandemic we will be changed. The hope is that these new habits, perspectives and new ways of living will remain long after the 40 days have passed and for years to come post pandemic.
The silence and quiet of the past year is symbolic of that which we seek during Lent and the results quite the same. The question remains, "How will we live in grace and the Word that have been revealed to us through Lent and the pandemic for the days and years to come?"
Jennifer Fortney is a member of the Church of Saint Luke and a contributor to The Lakeview Lutheran blog.