The Season of Lent has begun. For forty days and forty nights, millions of people around the world will be involved in Lenten observation and sombre reflection.
While I find that Lent has its place in the circle of life in its reminder that not everything in the world or in people’s lives is happy or cheery or going well, I choose to observe the season of Lent in a different way than do many others. Admittedly, there is darkness in this world. There is darkness in situations that personally envelope people in a shroud of negativity. And for many Christians around the world at this time, there is darkness.
Many think of Lent as a time to ‘give up’ (‘fast’ from) chocolate, desserts, Facebook, Pinterest etc. I don’t (unless it’s to ‘fast’ in the way Pope Francis suggested in response to the question: “What will you fast from this Lent?” shared in the Soulistry blog post for Ash Wednesday: www.soulistry.com/blog. That’s the only kind of ‘fasting’ I will do during Lent. My focus is not on “giving up” but on “letting-in.”
“If only our eyes saw souls instead of bodies,” wrote an unknown author, echoing the cry of many whose value in society seems to be based on others ‘seeing’ them through the lens of financial status, ability, weight, skin colour, age, political belief, gender, sexuality etc. rather than ‘seeing them’ through the lens of the soul.
What a different world we could have if, instead of talking negatively, criticizing, nagging, finding fault, putting others down (not to mention ourselves), we talked about blessings and spoke about the goodness that ‘is’ around us.
Perhaps if this were the focus, it might be easier to see people as souls and not as … unemployed … or homeless … or disabled … or addicted … or … uneducated … or a particular race or colour or religion … or whatever. By adopting such a focus, it might be easier to relate to ‘the other’ as a person of worth rather than ignore, pity, judge, bully or hate. And it might be easier to see beauty – in others, in our world, within ourselves.
The Season of Lent invites us to “metanoia” – turn around and focus on a change of heart. Some interpret that as ‘repentence.’ While I see merit in such interpretation, my way of encountering the Season of Lent is to focus on metanoia rather than repentence … to change my heart, about other people, the future, myself, and ask “How can I let light in, to truly see?”
So, I am not “giving up” something for Lent. I am not focusing on continually repenting for things in the past. I try to do that when I realize the error of my ways and move on, trusting that I am loved and forgiven. Rather, in the Season of Lent, I am choosing to be on the lookout for souls in the lives of all people – and myself.
May this Season of Lent be a time of personal growth.
May this world be a place of seeing-souls.
May this be a holy Lent.
“The Lord bless thee and keep thee. The Lord make his face shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee. The Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon thee and give thee peace.” (Numbers 6: 24-26)
The words on the marker found in the gardens/church of St. Just of Roseland (http://stjustandstmawes.org.uk/st-just-in-roseland/gardens/) in Cornwall (Roseland), England (photographer: Marta Swain) are a gentle reminder of an ancient hope and blessing that has comforted millions throughout the centuries and continues to do so in these difficult days of today.
Photo: © Marta Swain – used with permission