Sunday, February 21, 2016

Walking through Lent

We pretend that going into the wilderness 
isn’t something we have to contend with in our age and time.

Jeremiah and Isaiah talked about the wilderness. 
Moses led his people through it 
on a journey lasting years. 
John the Baptist wandered around in it, 
wearing animal skins and eating insects.

Jesus went into the wilderness too; 
to be tempted; 
to confront the devils, 
within and without.

From the safety of our tidy, climate controlled houses, 
we read the stories. 
We sit on polished pews, 
trying to peer over the coiffed head 
of the blue haired, blue blood parishioner 
sitting in front of us and hear words coming from the pulpit 
telling us that the Lent in which we immerse ourselves for the next 40 days 
is about going into our own wilderness; 
but we know better.

We know that the most ‘wilderness’ we’re likely to see 
is if measurable snow is predicted
and we go to the grocery store. 
Then we’ll be elbowing our way down aisles,
past the hordes of desperate neighbors,
willing to sell our kingdoms 
with all our earthly possessions 
to grab the last dozen eggs, a loaf of bread and gallon of milk 
for survival French toast.

We have a life of ease and privilege – 
and most of us don’t spend much time 
looking at the emptiness and barrenness 
created by the lifestyles we assume are ‘the norm’.

After my experience with walking labyrinths in San Francisco 
(and memories of others walked in France 
and New Harmony, Indiana), 
I decided that, rather than giving something up,
my Lenten discipline would be to walk 
a different labyrinth in St Louis 
every Saturday morning.

I designed a schedule for myself 
which started with the labyrinths on the edges of our region, 
working toward the center, 
imitating the loops of a labyrinth itself. 
I’m excited about how different the settings and patterns are – 
and am curious about how that will influence the experience each Saturday.

I headed out last weekend
in below freezing weather,
with winds that chilled to the bones; 
passing undeveloped land, abandoned houses 
and shuttered malls.
The bleakness and loss of hope they represent seemed to seep into the car 
and into my blood 
with every breath I took.
It was a vivid reminder that there are, in fact,  deserts in our midst;
we don't need to travel to other regions of the world.
to see them.

 Given its surroundings,
the labyrinth itself felt like an oasis;
 the way 
clear and defined;
at least, in most places.
While walking, 
I felt the sun on my back
even as my hands, ears and feet became numb.
Traffic sounds in the distance were muffled,
drowned out by the staccato of a nearby woodpecker.

Solitary and serene,
it was a beautiful walk
and a delightful end to a busy week

in which I had often felt 
between a rock and a hard place!
I will visit it again
to see how it looks/feels
in spring and summer.

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