Have you heard people describe their different phases of life as a season? The season of a new job, new home, new baby. The season of grief through loss of a job or loved one. This way of describing certain milestones and even difficulties as seasons has provoked a thought for me. What season am I in? At first thought, my answer is that thing we never want to say when answering a question. That especially hard to say thing for those of us who want to be in control. What season am I in? I don't know.
As I've shared, I work in the church as the Director of Children's Ministry. We're heading into a very special season in the life of the church. Lent. If church is not a regular place for you, that word might seem misspelled. You might also think of Lent as Easter. That is how I teach it to my younger children, wanting them to make the connection and notice the difference of this special holiday and the one they celebrated a few months ago, Christmas. We go from Jesus' birth to Jesus' death and resurrection rather quickly, now. Each year, as I work to prepare the offerings we will share with our children and families during the season of Lent, I am reminded of the importance to take a pause and pay attention to the story. Easter doesn't just happen. There is a season to get to its arrival. 40 days to be exact. Not everything about that season is pretty, wrapped in a rainbow or "instagram worthy." There is dark. There is scary. There is unknown. There is confusion. There is sad. There is grief. There is lonely.
Could you describe your own story of those seasons? Does it feel awkward or embarrassing?
I had a friend reach out to me recently and ask for advice. Specifically, she asked if I had any habits that might help with anxiety and depression as her normal go-to tools weren't meeting her where she had the needs. I did not get her permission to share any details. I believe in the rules of fight club and very much value this friendship, so I hope she'll forgive me for using her very real example. Several thoughts to unpack. I bet you could add your own. Number one, I feel honored she came to me. I've gone to her plenty of times with similar asks and she always delivers. Usually with a sense of humor, but always sincerity. Do you have that friend? Here's your reminder to say thank you and check in on them. Next, I know without a doubt, we have ALL been in that weird and awkward place of dealing with tough stuff, not knowing how to handle and feeling like we shouldn't talk about it. We shouldn't share our burdens. We shouldn't place our own dark, scary or unknown in someone else's season. There is also this sense of feeling as if we should simply be able to "just get out of it." Word choice is important. I like the way my friend worded her ask. She didn't ask me to give her a quick answer. She asked for habits. She asked if I had ideas she could try for herself. She let me know there was something deeper. She didn't try to mask the deep by looking for the simple and easy.
If you don't know the story, that's okay. I bet you can still identify in your own way. This season of Lent is a reminder. The dark. The sad. The unknown. The confusing. Be with it. Pay attention. No, I don't mean dwell on it, but don't brush it off or "just get through it." Seasons change. The season of Lent happens to be 40 days. 40 days of dark and scary. Days of wondering and wandering. Days of "being with it" and paying attention. Some mark the season of Lent by giving up or taking on something for the 40 days. Giving up chocolate. Giving up TV. Taking on a healthy alternative to those luxuries. To be reminded and to reflect the season. I don't really identify with giving up chocolate or TV. Those don't seem serious or direct enough, in my opinion. In recent years, I have taken on writing letters for each day of Lent to someone in my world. Taking time during of each of the 40 days to write a handwritten note with an actual thought and an actual prayer. I make myself pause. Pay attention. Be with it. Through another person.
If you don't know the story, I'm going to spoil it for you. In those 40 days... there is hope. There is forgiveness. There is grace. There is joy. There is love.
There is for you, too.