I published “Lent for non-Lent people” two years ago. It’s a collection of short reflections to be read, one per day, during the seven weeks before Easter, starting on “Ash Wednesday” (February 10).
I asked a friend to help me sell the book this year. She said, “Can you describe the feeling that people are experiencing that observing Lent could help with?” Her question was spot on. But I get too selly, too analytical, too bleh.
That afternoon, I went to see another friend. We don’t know each other well, but we respect each other.
I went to his office. In the woods.
I mean his office is in a building that is actually in the middle of a nature preserve. I turned off a quiet county road onto a narrow gravel road. I should confess that I almost missed the gravel road. I was on the phone.
Rather than cutting through hills, the road follows them up and down. Not big ones, but the kind you notice if you run. The hills that make you slow down if something might be in the road on the other side. And the curves in the road, following the curves of the land or some deer trail, slow your speed even more. The trees were bare. You see past them to more trees.
I got to the small parking area and was near the edge of a ravine. with steep banks falling to the small creek at the bottom. And trees. Not a Colorado ravine, but more than I’m used to in Indiana. I walked to the office, aware of the January sun through the trees, the traffic-absent quiet, the slowing of my steps, my expectations for coffee and conversation.
I was delighted as he walked me through the small building. Gathering spaces were glass-walled and sun-filled. Walls were wood. The small sun porch would have been perfect for sitting and looking and dozing.
And then we got lost in conversation about God and life.
As I walked back to my truck, I had to stop and absorb the quiet.
That gravel road, winding through unfamiliar woods, inviting us to slow down, calming our hearts for the celebration of conversation, I think that’s what Lent is. A season inviting us to give up our speed for the sake of something deeper.