With each new day, the weight of the world seems to rest on our shoulders. There is new hope, but with it comes fresh exhaustion.
We are simultaneously under and overwhelmed by the state of the world and of our own hearts. The input of new information threatens to crush us under the pressure. We have to approach hope with such cautious optimism, almost to the point where it feels precarious to count on anything at all. Most days, to me, optimism feels like too big of a risk.
As we begin the season of Lent in an already challenging year, I am determined to point our family away from heaviness and despair, and towards encouragement and light. Lent is not exactly known for bringing about those feelings, even in the most optimistic believers. I had set about a daunting task.
On the surface, Lent seems like the icing on the cake to an already challenging time in all our lives. I struggled to even present this season to my children. I couldn’t ask them to give up one more thing in a year that has already stolen so much, even if it could serve to deepen their relationship with God. I couldn’t conceive that we should focus on anything negative for another moment. With a collective sigh, I knew we had all had enough.
This did not sit well with my typically positive self. Often one to force optimism, I went digging through The Book of Common Prayer, desperate to find glimmers of hope. After a brief search through the scriptures designated for Lent, two Psalms resonated with me.
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” —Psalm 51: 10-12
“In you Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame. In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me; turn your ear to me and save me. Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.” —Psalm 71:1-3
These songs of redemption helped guide our family’s focus for Lent this year. Instead of pieces of negativity creeping their way further into our hearts, we chose to meditate on God’s promises of renewal, restoration, and joy for our weary hearts.
A few weeks back, I stood in line with a handful of other healthcare providers to receive our second vaccines. We were surrounded, in earnest, by our community members over the age of seventy-five. Wanting to remember this moment clearly, I watched as these elders expectantly walked through each step of the process. I saw their kindness with our staff, coupled with a palpable nervousness that comes with expectant hope.
The gentlemen next to me smiled as he asked, “Did you already get the first one? Did you do ok afterwards?” I reassured him that, despite a headache, I was back in full form the next day. He paused for a moment, smiled to himself, and then gave me the most poignant reminder: “There is hope at the end of this, isn’t there?”
There is hope, for each and every one of us. Not just in the promise of scientific advancement or the potential curtailing of a pandemic that has altered our lives in ways we never thought possible. There is hope in the promise that God remains our refuge and our strong foundation through each challenging season of our lives. We are not cast away, but rather sustained in God’s loving embrace.
Initially, it seemed selfish to gloss over the penitential season and turn our focus only to God’s goodness. My children certainly did not protest; they are happy to jump straight from the Wise Men to Alleluias. We are working to find the balance between reflection and hope, since we have had so much negativity since our last Easter morning.
This reflection became a good reminder that Lent is not punishment, but it is also not an opportunity to ignore our own brokenness. Instead, we can take our brokenness, lean into God as our refuge, and write our own Easter story.
What does observing a holy Lent look like for your household this year?