Lent: a time of abstinence and fasting; small penances amidst our everyday abundance that remind us to savor the sweetness of life.
Lent invites us to pare our lives down to essentials. It does not require us to dwell in darkness. Jesus, after all, had no time for sackcloth and ashes, for public pieties from those who basked in their chosenness.
Even in Lent, especially in Lent, we need light and beauty, life’s essentials. We are called to light. We are called to make beautiful in every way we know how, the small patches of the planet we call home, wherever that might be. (Maybe that’s why churches rely on so much stained glass: to help us see the full spectrum of life’s colors.)
Every time we draw back the curtains, we let in the sun. It lets us see the leaves rustle as breezes whisper through branches and trees. How not to feel the sun do its slow, sure work, lending its rays to the slow ripening of fruit, bunches of bananas and papayas and mangoes, their green turning to rose and amber and yellow and every shade of gold? How not to smile as we watch fat birds bobbing on branches too slender to hold them steady, then taking off suddenly with a panicked flutter of wings?
Sunshine, blue skies, and laughter help us meet the deeper, tougher obligations of Lent. The obligation to abstain from anger and suspicion; from spite and competition; from rank and rancor. How hard it is to abstain from regret at things that might have been, joys that might have been shared. How hard it is to abstain from wishing and wishing and wishing.
But we still our aching hearts by moving forward, seeing God in our neighbor, family in friends, and grace in strangers who delight in unlooked-for kindness. Strangers who do not doubt, who see no shadows, who freely and fully delight in the light and joy of unexpected connections.
And thus we draw a little closer to Easter, bruised but buoyed.