Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Seasons, Disciplines, and Changes of Lent

I seem to make a habit of coming back to this blog around the beginning of Lent each year. As long as I’ve been blogging, I seem to fall away during the holidays and come back during late February, early March. In past spring posts, I’ve shared my excitement for literary journalism, blogging/God-language, and Lenten practice itself.

It’s funny to re-read that last post, my Lent post for 2011, because without realizing it, the practices I’ve taken on this year are the same ones that I put in that post: daily writing and daily prayer. Last year I failed miserably at them—I’d given up within a week. This year, however, the practices of prayer and writing are starting to stick. I’ve kept up both consistently so far. (Yes, I know it’s only been a week—but at least I’m off to a good start, eh?)

Not that I feel that earns me any spiritual brownie points. My friend Tyler makes an excellent point about our tendency to make this season all about us—our personal sins and our own willpower to resist them. Lenten disciplines can easily fall into that trap. But this year I’m experiencing these disciplines more as guides through a confusing wilderness.

Transition times take hold of me in different ways. Last Lent was near the beginning of a crazy and wonderful year—I was planning a wedding to my wonderful partner and stepping up my involvement in a worship website. In the flurry of action that spring, and through the following year, I fled from all sorts of discipline.

This year my life is still in flux—maybe even more so. Drew and I are settling into marriage; the website, sadly, is no longer active. And I’m applying to graduate school and embarking on a new part of my career. This may be our last spring in Claremont.

In this time of transition, I find myself clinging to disciplines. The Daily Office and my journal are lifelines for me, consistent even as everything else changes. I’m discovering new depth in the psalms and prayers. And I’m remembering how to write without a filter or censor again.

Maybe it’s not such a bad thing that I have to rediscover this every year. Maybe we need a time to re-commit. Lent has traditionally been a time for new Christians to learn about the faith and prepare themselves for baptism at the Easter Vigil. But these days in many churches, even those with no new members in this season, at the Vigil the whole congregation renews their baptismal vows. We re-commit to the faith we came into many years ago.

One of the things I love about worship and liturgy—which is drawing me to study it in more detail in the future—is its relationship to the cyclical nature of time. The year turns, and the colors shift: blue to white to green to purple to red. The seasons change inside the church walls just as they do outside.

This gives me hope. If my prayer, or my writing, or my editing isn’t working now, maybe the changing seasons will bring those practices back to life again. We re-commit to faith as winter turns to spring, and we hope for what will happen as the wheel turns round again.