Sat 28 Feb 2015
We have set records for snowfall for the month this week here at this old house. We have now had over 50 inches fall in February for the first time ever since records began to be kept and over 20 inches of that fell this week. It is beautiful: the dark blue Colorado winter sky against the sparkling white snow. It has been a bit tricky getting around town as the city tends to do less plowing of the streets rather than more but life has generally gone on as normal here at this old house.
That is both good and bad. Here in North America, we are not used to our routines being interrupted. In fact, we tend to dislike having our forward trajectories thwarted, even by something like a major snow storm. I do find it interesting that we use the weather selectively as an excuse to rest. If there is something we really want to do or feel we must do, we will brave the elements to get there but if we are tired, stressed, feeling behind, we will use the weather as an excuse to cancel, stay home to catch up or maybe, even rest.
Lent is an interruption in our normal routines. Maybe that is why so many people don’t like it. Even regular church-goers will seek to slip through Lent surreptitiously, avoiding discussions of the three disciplines of Lent: fasting, prayer and acts of love and service. The more somber music in worship “depresses” them and the idea of giving something up is so foreign that they will give a ridiculous answer when the discussion of their possible Lenten fasting practices comes up in conversation. We want life to be “business as usual.” The idea of stopping and reflecting on our sin and mortality simply does not fit with modern society’s notion of progress and upward mobility.
But we cheat ourselves by not stopping, shifting our routines to walk with Christ toward Calvary and beyond. Easter means less because we have tried to by-pass Lent. In C.S. Lewis’s “Narnia” series, the White Witch jumps a wall into a special garden where healing fruit grows. She sees no need to enter through the proper but difficult gate that Digory must find. The apple the witch eats becomes her ultimate destruction whereas for Digory, it becomes the source of healing for his mother back in England.
When we attempt to by-pass Lent, ignore it except for an hour or two on Sunday mornings, it seems to me that we are not going to benefit as much from the healing power of the Resurrection when Easter morning dawns. It will feel like “business as usual” but with a trumpet or two added in.
That is why it is good for Mother Nature to remind us periodically that we are not in charge. Be it through a snow storm, high winds or tides, flooding or drought, we do well to flow with the seasons, both of nature and of our lives. We can practice in Lent dying to ourselves so that when the day of death does come, or at least the end of life as “business as usual,” we can do so with joy and not bitterness.
Lent can be one way we disrupt our normal life. Through a shift in focus and routine, we can train to recognize that business as usual is a mere illusion, easily disrupted. We can arrive at Easter more ready for God to do a new thing in and through us.