It has been two years since this COVIC-19 pandemic began. At the time, I was pastoring a local church and we were in the middle of the season of Lent. In many Christian traditions, Lent is the 40 day (plus Sundays) period before Easter. It is a time of reflection, confession, and a focus on personal growth and discipleship. It has traditionally been a time for new believers to be prepared for the sacrament of baptism.
At the time the “shut down” began, I remember thinking that is seemed so appropriate to be “stuck at home” during Lent. It could be a time to turn inward, toward family, toward self and home improvement. It could be a time to focus on making changes that we all wanted to make, to do those things at home we never seemed to get around to. It could be a time to read more and play games and slow down and rest. It could be a time to hit pause and reset.
That was my hope at least. I prayed that the “lock down” would be a time for our ever busy and constantly moving society to hit reset. I have had this growing sense that so many families with kids at home were going and going and going at a breakneck pace, far surpassing what their bodies and wallets could sustain much longer. My family included. I could feel the buzzing busyness and it didn’t feel good.
So, we tried to make some changes. We did family projects. We played family games. We had family devotions and Sunday worship at home. And the lock-down continued. School stayed virtual. I stayed working (admittedly, pastoring looked VERY different though). Bill returned to work and eventually the race season resumed with a VERY different travel schedule. Altered reality life continued.
Then I had to slow down even more. My back began to hurt. And hurt worse. Eventually, summer came. I left the church I was serving and transitioned to a new church (all planned before the pandemic started). Major milestones didn’t happen or were delayed (graduations and ordination). Proper goodbyes and lasts didn’t happen. Then I landed in the ER (twice) for the back issue, eventually having surgery followed by subsequent recovery.
All the while, family life continued. Managing kids’ feelings and the marriage strain that caused was hard. I was still pastoring and managing the feelings of church folks who just wanted to “go back to normal.” All the while, I knew in my heart I did not want to go back to normal. Lent was long over, and yet the time of reflection and confession and personal growth was still very much the season I was in. I stayed in personal counseling. Bill and I started marriage counseling to deal with the stress of family stuff. I journaled and tried keeping the Daily Office (traditional Christian times of prayer throughout the day). I longed for rhythm and routine and a depth of faith that I needed.
And I slowed down. Since the kids’ activities were canceled and the school day was different, Bill’s travel schedule was significantly less, and my work schedule was different, we could all slow down. We had the chance to make changes in our rhythms and routines. And we did.
Slowly though, things began to change. As activities resumed, we started to add things back in. The schedule became more full again. Travel picked back up. We did plan some family travel. We bought a camper. We still tried to play games together. I changed how I plan my schedule.
In many ways, it feels like I’ve been in a 2-year season of Lent. It has been 2 years of inward focus, of learning about myself (the good and the hard) and making steps to be more true to myself and who God has called me to be. I made the decision to step out of pastoring a local church so that I could be more fully present for my children in this season of their life without sacrificing my marriage in the process. I have a greater sense of being a beloved child of God, regardless of my level of productivity and “success” as determined by culture. Although our family calendar is still full, I have stopped trying to fit everything in and saying yes to every opportunity. After having had a second surgery during this pandemic, I have learned that I am better – physically and mentally – when I listen to my body cues and move when I need to move, rest when I need to rest, and eat in a way that nourishes me.
As we are now in our third season of Lent in the midst of a pandemic, I finally feel ready for Easter. And even as I type that sentence, I am reminded that my 2022 word is RISE, and I wonder at God’s goodness. I don’t know what will be the rest of this year. I don’t even know what will be next week. All I know is that I feel a resurrection readiness in my soul. I feel a readiness to live fully alive, with a peace I haven’t felt in years.
My two-year Lent is over. I’m ready for Easter.
How about you? What have you learned about yourself and your way of life over the last 2 years? Who have you become?