The Lens of Lent

I need marsh walks to have thoughts, paper scraps in my purse to record them, and train rides to share them. Walking across the meadow today,  I gave voice to what I’ve been pondering for several days: What are the heavy and the light things we carry in this Lenten season upon us?

Recent days have been filled with discussions of life insurance and taxes. They sound so opposite: the former is optional and purportedly helpful. Taxes, on the other hand, are mandatory and not obviously of benefit (especially if we face writing a check to the US Treasury.) We consider and possibly deal with both while we live, but both also carry reminders of our mortality. “The only sure things are death and taxes,” we quip. And indeed, in the process of doing both, we are reminded how unfinished we think we are with living.

I’ve also been returning to one of those thoughts that come to me as if through a mental tickertape. You know the feeling: suddenly dictation comes directly into your brain.  On this particular occasion I could almost hear the keys flying with the incoming message, just like in newsrooms of old. The ribbon read, “We often make the small too big, and the big too small.”

So I ask: are the heavy things in my Lenten backpack big or small? Are they lasting, or temporal? If I name some, will it help me know what I’m carrying?

Heavy things: the photo of the General handing a folded flag to an infant, held on her mother’s lap, graveside, for the fallen husband and father killed in Afghanistan. Also, the anticipated and shared grief I feel for my friends, which reawakens my own, even if briefly. Now, I realize, that grief touches my resolve as well as my sadness. Here’s something else heavy: The long term future of our nation and our politics. I think of my husband who teaches the intersection of faith and politics. Do we need the former to find anything good in the latter?

The light things seem like vapors. I open my pack and out they float, not even staying long enough to give weight to my fingers on these keys, it seems. Things now fading: the wonderful mushroom bisque I made that no one would eat. Doesn’t anyone care I left in the cayenne pepper although I once wrote on the recipe to leave it out, and now I’m sure I should keep it in?  What a nice bite the cayenne brings! Here’s another lightness: not folding the laundry during the final episode of Downton Abbey, and thus being two baskets behind for the boys who shower and (kindly) call down, “Got any clean towels around here?” Here’s a last one:  how about the weariness of my arms after scraping four cars for four days in a row: so what? It’s due to be seventy degrees tomorrow.

Ah Lent. Season of substance and journey, heavy and light, big and small. I think wisdom says we will never be caught up with all the responsibilities and dreams and tasks in our daily lives. Nor will we arrive at a full expression of the love, heartache,  friendship, or gratitude we’ve known along the way. But surely, in spite of this seemingly great limitation, we will experience grace, now and at the end of our days. Grace to know we chose the Real Game, and the Truest Adventure.

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