Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.
-T. S. Elliot from Ash Wednesday
The journey of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. Traditionally, Lent is seen as a holy season meant to prepare the faithful for Easter through self-denial and letting go of things while we focus inward on our spiritual pulses. For me, I want to do quite the opposite.
Over the years, I have seen my vision for this season change. Lent draws me to notice the beauty of life in its’ fragility. There is a simplistic beauty to the thought that we come from the earth and, in death, return to it. I see Lent as a time that reminds us to live well.
Think of those things that create mental clutter and drive us to be robots in our every day lives.
Think of those things that eat at our souls and drive us to live on impulse and oppression.
Think of those things that prevent us from noticing the simple rhythms of nature and the world around us as we speed along to survive our busy days.
Think of those things that fill our to-do lists and subtly eat away at our souls.
Think of those things that distract you from being truly you.
Those crosses marked in ash on our foreheads call us to remember that Jesus lived passionately on the road to his death. Frankly, those passions paved the road before him. He recognized that death was never meant to be the focus. He simply knew in life what truly mattered. So instead of giving up things like chocolate or alcohol, let us give up those things that prevent us from truly living. If life is fragile and brief, then we should embrace the words from Andy Dufresne in the movie The Shawshank Redemption when he said, “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.”
So what are those things in your life that are distractions? What is preventing you from living and loving well?
I can’t answer those questions for you, but I’d assume that it wouldn’t take you long to contemplate and realize what they are. For me, when I pack my days so full of ambition and goals, I find myself ignoring the people around me. I don’t listen well, and I’m rarely present. My drive to complete tasks comes at a cost. I become less like myself, becoming blind to other’s humanity and I lose touch with my soul.
Today we focus not on death; that would be too easy. Death is stagnant. Life is organic. We turn to the sober reality that even though our lives may be brief in the whole of time and history, we are also called to live fully while there is still breath in our lungs. This season of Lent calls us to live better while we shed those things that steal life away from us. So go into the world today with sober eyes and full hearts. Live well, love well and remember that what the world needs most is for us to be fully alive.