These are indeed strange times, these days of living with COVID-19, where life has been altered so drastically, so quickly. Though so much has changed about our day-to-day lives, there is one thing that still remains the same, we are still in the season of Lent. Even if most everything else has been put on hold, Lent, it continues on. As I’ve been reflecting on this, I’m realizing, that’s the beauty of the church year, regardless of what is going on in life, these cycles and seasons of the church year that move us through and into truth, they keep going. They remind us of the greater realities of God and His work in our lives when we can become consumed by what is right in front of us.
I saw a friend post on Facebook this week a hilarious meme about journeying through COVID-19 in the midst of Lent…
If you aren’t familiar with the liturgical year, Lent is a season of the church year that begins on Ash Wednesday and continues for 40 days (minus Sundays) through Easter Sunday. It is usually the practice in the season of Lent to give up something, to fast, in order to feel our deeper hunger for God.
Well, this year, whether you planned to give something up for Lent or not, we have all had Lent forced upon us as we have given up things we never dreamed we would have to give up. Hugging, and even being near, our friends and even extended family. Going to work. Going to the gym. Going on a trip. We are in a forced Lent … and it is not relenting. It feels like Lent will continue even after Easter this year, as we will continue in this COVID-19 existence through and beyond Easter.
Perhaps Lent feels far from your radar right now. If you are one to follow the church year, maybe Lent went out the window when social distancing began and all the other normal things of life began being put on hold. The one word that keeps coming to mind as I sit with my heart and soul a little over two weeks into the shutdown this COVID-19 epidemic has brought on is I feel disoriented. It feels like so many things and rhythms in my life are out of whack right now in light of this stay-at-home place we find ourselves. I imagine I am not the only one who feels this way. As a mom of four children spanning preschool to middle school, I didn’t plan to be homeschooling them this Spring and put much of my other work on hold. As social beings, we didn’t plan to keep at a distance from almost everyone but our nuclear family. I’ve never in my life have had the experience of churches not gathering together on Sundays for worship.
Even as I feel my own disorientation, I wonder about others who are unable to work or who are now unemployed and wonder how they will make their rent or buy food. I wonder about those who are single and live alone in this stay-at-home existence. I wonder about those who are in the at-risk population, as I hold the reality of my own kids not being able to see their grandparents. This COVID-19 existence has affected so much and so many in countless, hard ways. And the end to these unusual days of social distancing, the end of schools and businesses remaining closed, the end of life being disrupted is unclear. It has left me feeling pretty disoriented and scrambling to figure out a rhythm and flow to our days and a way to function under this new “normal” where we all aren’t losing it by the end of the day.
Is it worth staying with Lent in the midst of COVID-19 and social distancing and life being altered so suddenly? As I’ve been trying to keep at least the rhythm of Lent going in the midst of what is right now, the thought suddenly occurred to me: Lent itself might be a guide offering us a way through these days. Lent itself is a season of reorientation, and if we ever needed a guide for reorienting, it is now. So perhaps Lent itself can help show us a way through these unusual times.
Right before COVID-19 hit the US and quarantine began, I was working on preparing to lead a Lenten Day Apart Retreat as a part of one of the wonderful offerings of a ministry I am a part of called JourneyMates. That retreat was suppose to be held last Saturday, March 28th. Of course it was cancelled along with everything else, but we decided to still develop materials for a Lenten retreat.
Perhaps more than ever, now is the time we need the space to till the quiet center of our souls, a space to reorient ourselves in the midst of such radical disorientation.
As we move into the last week of Lent, I invite you to take some time and space away with God by receiving this gift JourneyMates (JM) is offering in a guided personal JM Soul Care Retreat: a JM Lenten Time Apart. You are invited to download the written retreat guide to the JM Lenten Time Apart here. Find the guide and accompanying recorded material on the Resource page of the JourneyMates website as well as a link to the Reflective Teaching I give here. Then, set apart 2-5 hours to simply be with God in a personal retreat.
I feel so aware of the gravity that this Holy Week holds for us all. This Lent does feel heavier than any other Lent we have experienced before. But Lent is always at its core an invitation to come home to the heart of God. And what better place could we go in the midst of this strange place we find ourselves. Whether you engage this retreat or not, I do hope you will receive the invitation to take some time away with the Lord and listen for the ways that God is calling you to return home to His heart, to remember yet again, that only our Shepherding God can truly give us what we need in this time of disorientation, what our hearts truly long for, his love.
‘Strong Arms” artwork by Patrick Dominguez. Used with permission, PatrickDominguezArt.com
Click here to view a video of the making of this painting along with a brief meditation on the passage of scripture that inspired it.