The season of Lent is just beginning. Forty days, plus Sundays, of reflecting on and tending to what is most precarious and precious in the world, in our collective life. Forty days, plus Sundays, of leaning into the holy and unfolding story of being alive together, when death is a reality, and deadliness infects every register of life: socially, politically, ecologically.
“…when two violins are placed in a room if a chord on one violin is struck the other violin will sound the note. if this is your definition of hope this is for you…”
This year, what if we approach Lent as a season of healing? Tending wounds, and their possibilities for tender new growth. Honoring scars that bear witness to wounds, and survival, and the stubborn insistence of hard earned wisdom. Healing is slow labor. We cannot force healing, nor demand it, nor coerce it into being. But we can invite it. Make space for it. Coax healing with patience, and tender care. So too, with hope. Perhaps hope is nothing more than continuing to sound notes of possibility in one another. “But since why is so difficult to handle,” writes Toni Morrison, “one must take refuge in how.”
“…for the ones who know how powerful we are, who know we can sound the music in the people around us simply by playing our own strings…”
What if we approach Lent as an invitation into the collective practice of building a world, of sharing a life, of imagining a future—even, perhaps especially, when it seems the world is ending? When we succumb to cynicism and despair, insisting everything is trash and engaging the world as such, we risk losing, or may have already lost, our care for, courage with, and trust in the world, in God, in each other. From this trust—always a risky and courageous practice of faith and never a safe guarantee—flows the kindness, joy, and creativity that is life, and makes life bearable. “…Whatever is good is not more,” writes Pauli Murray, “than the world-making event of planting a rose, or plucking a truant weed, or watching a chimney-swallow after rain patiently restoring its nest.”
“…for the ones who sing life into broken wings, open their chests and offer their breath…”
What if this Lent we practice breathing through pain and fear? Breathing deep is hard labor. Breath is Spirit is Life. Breathing together is a practice of sustaining life. “We share in air,” writes Ashon Crawley. “Here. In this place. We flesh. Even those that have renounced relation to flesh, which is their relation to the earth, to the social, to the sensual sound, to blackness. And it is urgent to think about how we can live together, to breathe with one another—to, as Gwendolyn Brooks says, live in the along.” By “living in the along,” by singing life into broken wings, Crawley invites us to reconsider forgiveness, freeing it from the realm of individual feeling toward collective reckoning. Forgiveness can become a different kind of wrestling with the world, creating conditions under which harm can be acknowledged and confronted in its complexity. “The practice of forgiveness does not, for me, require anything of the person who harmed,” Crawley suggests. “Because it has to be noncoercive. Because it is not about the one who harmed as the center of gravity…The practice of forgiveness is not the antithesis to acceptance, or anger or rage or reality; it is not inaction or complacency or docility. Forgiveness, for me, is the acceptance of the fact of harm and the desire to figure out how to live, how to breathe…”
“…this is for the possibility that guides us, and for the possibilities still waiting to sing and spread their wings inside us…”
What if we think of Lent as a season of breaking up with, taking leave from, patterns and practices that feed destruction? The loss is often disorienting, but the disorientation can become a reorientation toward aliveness. That would mean Lent is also a season of falling in love with, enthusiastically consenting to open-hearted embrace of patterns and practices that nourish life. Breaking up and breaking free. Freeing space for in-breaking of possibilities both wild and unknown.
“…the world needs us right now more than it ever has before: pull all your strings, play every chord…”
Healing is a social practice, a relational practice, as well as a deeply personal practice. “We can bring down the entire system and have a worldwide revolution, but if we haven’t healed our traumas and learned how to be in authentic relationships with each other, we will corrupt any new system we put in its place,” writes Kazu Haga. And. Also. “We can heal every person’s trauma, but if we haven’t begun to dismantle the structures still in place that perpetuate injustice at a systemic level, we’ll replicate the conditions for new traumas to constantly be created.” The personal is political. The political is personal. Our lives and our futures are bound up in one another.
“…play like you know we won’t survive if you don’t but we will if you do…”
—Andrea Gibson, “Say Yes”
Our work in this world, during this one wild and precious life, is to care for each other and receive care from each other. To create a world wherein care for people who are hurting, who have been harmed, who are right now being harmed by patterns and practices of dominance and greed and deadly indifference to shared flourishing is a priority, a promise, a practice we collectively commit to. With joy, and pleasure, and delight. Because we are stardust, holy dirt, sacred dust. Created good. Birthing life. Tending death. Surviving together, our survival depends upon each other. We are marked by mortality, and divinity, too, made from grit, and bound for grief, and glory, too.