We’re about a week into Lent already, one of my favorite times of the church year.
This year feels different for me.
Normally, have some sense of anticipation about reengaging some of the disciplines of my spiritual life that may have gotten a little rusty or fallen into disuse. A day a week of fasting has been my practice for years and years and years. Experience has taught me to prepare mentally, physically, and emotionally for the ramped up activity and responsibilities during Lent. I know that by the time Easter arrives, I will be tired — a deeply satisfying weariness that says I have led a people through the wilderness of Lent to the promised paschal feast.
This year I enter the season weary, but it’s not a satisfying weariness. It feels more like the beginning of a long slog. It’s like that time on the backpacking trip when you need to get through the next two miles of mud in order to start ascending the hill that will take you to the lakeside campsite that is the goal of the day’s hike.
Part of it is the time of transition that our congregation’s ministry. It has meant longer days and more responsibilities. And while I’m mostly energized by that transition, hopeful for the new thing that will emerge, there are also times and days when it feels like I’m a compatriot of Sisyphus, pushing that proverbial stone up a hill. I have heard that the effort of birthing is exhausting.
That’s where I am this year. Feeling like the effort of birthing is exhausting. In the background is the hope that comes from the promises of the same God who made astonishing promises to Abraham. And in the foreground is the difficulty of seeing how those promises will be made concrete. I feel the weariness of exile when the promised return to The Land has little to hang on to.
On Sunday, the sermon was proclaimed by one of our staff members who doesn’t preach very often. She said a few things that have stuck in my gullet the past few days. First, she invited us to embrace the wilderness as a gift. Is it possible for me to see these days of weariness as the necessary gestation period for what is to be born?
The other thing she said is how willing we are to let distractions keep us from actually engaging God in the wilderness. There are so many important things to do!
I feel the weight of distractions, especially the distraction of important things that must get done.
Which leads me to believe it’s time to get off this computer and sit in the quiet of the wilderness. To listen for the voice of the One who has called me and who has promised to love me and who has promised never to leave me. Even in the weariness of the wilderness.
Pastor, Some very good thoughts to ponder.
I’m learning to be less afraid of the wilderness. Once there, it certainly goes against my instinct to want to stay there. I will try to embrace the quiet, the emptiness, and the loneliness of the wilderness knowing I just might emerge quite transformed.