Usually, I more easily find words to talk with you in these weekly Epistle messages.
But today is different and so difficult. Like you, I am sure, I am horrified at what is going on. I can’t believe what is happening, how life has changed so abruptly and what we are asked (even now ordered) to do and not do, what we’ve all been asked to give up and why. A tiny particle is taking over with the power to destroy life, individual lives as well as a whole way of life that has developed for so many of us over time. As humans, we are aware that physical death is inevitable although when it happens how often we are surprised by the reality of it. Here and now we are devastated by how it is happening. But something else is affected by this virus and aren’t we also shocked and terribly angry about how it is happening? The way of life we have become accustomed to is being dissembled, altered, broken down day by day before our very eyes? How powerless we feel!
As I write this Virginia has joined so many other states (as well as countries around the world) that have had to take the action of what is variously called, “lockdown,” “sheltering in place,” “stay at home.” States and countries are closing their borders; “containment” appears to be the best way to combat this microscopic enemy that wants us to host its multiplication. In addition to the anxiety about the life of those we love, our potential “loss” of them or even of our own life, we are being forced to give up so much of what has really mattered to us during this time of journeying “through the valley” and wondering just who may be with us and who may be against us through it all.
It is unnerving that this is all taking place during Lent, a time which over the centuries has embraced the spiritual practice of “fasting” – giving up something important to us. Interesting because this Lent, it’s not something as simple as chocolate or wine. It’s what we consider our freedom, our mobility, something precious to us: to go wherever we want, whenever we want. It’s also watching as many are giving up the security of protecting their own lives as they offer up themselves to be on the front lines: doctors, nurses, all health care professionals, first responders and those trying to help connect those now isolated to basic needs to sustain life. Fasting and sacrifice: core Lenten themes.
The overwhelming majority of us are asked only one thing: to stay at home. It seems so simple, to give up for a while the freedom to go wherever we want. But the sacrifice of that freedom is amazingly life giving. Maybe your and my staying home, except for what is absolutely essential, will preserve life for at least one other person, or the several persons we might have put at risk if we contract the virus and then pass it forward.
Often at the funeral of someone we know has spread good in his or her life, I comment with a full heart and true amazement to those present grieving yet celebrating the life of their loved one and friend the following words: “You and I will never know how many people’s lives your loved one touched, how many lives were graced by the gift of his/her presence whether a moment or years.”
How tragic if you or I become one for whom the opposite is true. No intention of passing anything negative forward but choosing our own individual desires to go and do what we want at this critical time, risking not only our own life, but that of others, spreading disease, something deathly to life, rather than good and life enhancing.
Homeward bound takes on new meaning. I love my little home and am at peace here when I choose to be here, most of the time. It’s not fast to me, but feast. However, I find myself antsy when something tells me I have to do something. Don’t we all like our freedom and would rather choose what to fast on this Lent? But I try to remember the bigger picture and how my actions can either contribute to the good of the whole or have a negative impact on others. So, if I get really antsy and have to get away at least a little bit, I gather up all the trash that may have accumulated, pack it up in the car and head to the dump, drop it off and then take the longer route home. Washing my hands thoroughly both before and after. Disposing of the trash in my life can certainly be deemed “essential” especially in Lent. Cleaning up is a good spiritual practice too. Any time but certainly in preparation for new life when an Easter time dawns beyond this darkness.
So, how are you handling the “fast” this Lent?