All is quiet today. It’s Easter Monday. And the end of my Lenten journey. And for the first time, perhaps, ever, I feel completely ok with that. You see, I often feel a sense of melancholy and guilt at the end of the Lenten season + Easter week. I think it’s because I have always felt like I could have done better. I could have meditated more. Gone deeper. Focused more. Taken it more seriously. Experienced more mystery. Like I somehow did not fill my soul in the way that I knew that I could have. Like I missed out on something.
Amazingly, though, this year, I do not feel any of that. Not one little bit actually. It’s crazy, to be honest with you. And I hadn’t considered any of this until I started typing right now. I feel none of the regret or guilt or sadness that I usually feel when this solemn, mystical time has ended… and, the thing is, I didn’t even observe it in the same way I have in the past. In fact, I dare say that I observed Lent/Easter in any traditional way at all. Especially when you compare my days now with my days of being a minister/pastor in a church.
Good god. How I could have thought that I wasn’t experiencing everything back then is beyond me. I was doing so much. How is it possible that I ended this season back then feeling… empty? And not good empty, like an empty tomb. Bad, empty. Drained. Confused. Lost. Back then, Lent + Easter were the craziest times of the year… in the most wonderful, deep ways. Still, I always ended the season exhausted + feeling as if I had missed something. Which, during all those years, made no sense to me. So, I immediately began yearning for next year’s Lenten/Easter season. In the hopes that in the next year I would get it right.
What I did this year for Lent was visit the cathedral every Wednesday during my lunch break (one week I dedicated my time to a magical, ancient place in Ireland that I visited during this Lent). That’s it. No muss, no fuss. No rules, no traditions, no plans at all… expect to spend these 30-sih minutes each week observing whatever I observed. Feeling whatever I felt. And I feel that this year, I did it my way. I didn’t decide or plan to do it my way. I just let it authentically unfold as it would. I let myself feel the freedom of no boxes, no rules, no expectations. The only thing I committed to was being committed to being aware. Make sense?
And then came this week… I spent my last Wednesday in the cathedral with my brother. It was nothing fancy. And I don’t think we even talked. But, I couldn’t have asked for anything more special. It really was the perfect ending to my personal Lenten journey. This week, as my brother + I walked in, the organ was playing. Of course it was Holy Week, so there was an air of solemnity. Here’s what I wrote about that feeling on instagram:
The last Wednesday of Lent. And I got to spend my time at the cathedral with my brother. It was late-afternoon. People milled about, mostly silently. There was a somber mood in the air. Both because of it being Holy Week for Christians, and also because of the terror attack in Stockholm less than a week ago. Plus, it’s just a massive, powerful cathedral.
I felt the heaviness of the moment. And it was as if right there, in that place, it was ok to release it all. Those majestic, symbolic, ancient walls could hold the collective cries + pains of anyone who came in with a burden to bear.
It was as if they whispered, “This is a sanctuary. This is a safe place. Release your pain. And find some peace.”
I sat for most of the time I was there. Not thinking or pondering. Just feeling. The darkness of Holy Week, the collective sigh of a hurting world, and my own personal melancholy + intercessions for others.
It is good to gather, I think. To acknowledge + participate in the healing of ourselves and the world. To listen, feel, and accept that it is what it is; and, yet, to not give up. To remain steadfast and to lift one another. It’s good, no matter what we may or may not believe in, to remember to pause. To return and gather together… celebrating our own rituals, participating with our own thoughts, and yet united in our humanity + hope for a better world. It’s good to pause so that we can then return back out into the world, inspired and ready to head our calling to be the change we want to see.
Today, in this safe place, in this sanctuary, I sought to align myself with it all. And I bid farewell to the introspective Lenten season for this year.
As I sit now, in the quiet of this Easter Monday, satisfied with and inspired from my own personal Lenten journey, I feel a quiet renewal + rebirth inside of me. I feel like I do at the beginning of a new year. That clean slate feeling. A burst of energy, hope, and life. And so, I pause today to deeply reflect on that feeling – and how it came about. It is worth noting to myself that this feeling of wholeness, of satisfaction + fulfillment came, not from engaging in tons of rituals + traditions with masses of people and doing the things that one (Christian) usually does during Lent + Easter. No, this feeling of aliveness and preparedness and commitment to what comes next has come to me because I simply, authentically let myself live and be and do what I felt in the moment was right for my soul.
Could this be what an aligned life is like?
If it is, then I am humbled beyond belief. And I give thanks for the process of learning to trust myself, to trust my soul, to step out from the constraints of should/would/could/must and to quietly just be who I am.
Yes, this year’s Lenten + Easter journey is complete. And I use the word complete consciously. Instead of the word “over”. I have blazed my own path into the wild. And I have learned, very concretely, to keep blazing my path. You know, “they” say that the purpose of the time in the wilderness is to bring about transformation. The metaphor of Jesus spending 40 days in the wilderness is the story of a man accepting, struggling with, and embracing the reality of who he is + who he is called to be. I do believe, and I say this with the utmost humility, that this is exactly what has occurred with me. Without even knowing it. I didn’t even think about it. I had no conscious intention to pressure myself to “feel different” at the end of this 7 week journey. Like I’ve said several times now, I just let it be. I let life roll on. Living and being and doing. And showing up at the cathedral once a week.
This is the beauty of living a mindful, in-the-present-moment, unfolding life: you don’t even see what is happening as it is happening. And then, when it is time to leave one phase behind + embark on a new path, looking back, it is apparent that transformation has occurred.
Now, mind you, I say all of this not as an expert. Not as one who is finished. Not as a guru who has finally understood it all. No, I am simply a pilgrim. Still walking. I am simply ready to leave this path behind and blaze off onto the next trail that lies up ahead.
My friends, just to be clear, in no way am I slamming anyone who wants to celebrate in the traditional way. I could care less how or when or why people celebrate anything. The point is, that we all simply dare to listen to our souls. That we dare to celebrate the way that our spirits crave celebration + ritual. That we dare to embark on our own journey, blaze our own trail, and face our own wilderness. Perhaps that’s what Lent is really all about. Perhaps that’s the best way to “follow” in the example of all of the mystics, including Jesus, who have gone before. Perhaps this is what it all means… To go out into the wild, tough, harsh, lonely desert all on our own, and to be transformed so that we are so firmly committed to being + living truly as we are. So that when we emerge from the wild, we are deeply ready to live an authentic life, no matter what the cost. (i.e. Jesus’ commitment to spreading love, even though it cost him his life. And, still, that, even in death + darkness, love always wins. Life always continues).
That, perhaps, is what it means to truly live authentically.
This moment, this Easter Monday, is my little pause in-between journeys. A chance to catch my breath. Reflect a little, seek these lessons, and chart my course forward. Thank you ever so much for journeying with me this Lenten season. It has truly been like no other.
To read all of the posts in this Lenten series, just click the posts below: