I was on a Zoom Lenten study group a few days ago. Our sessions, other than the first two (which were conducted BAC—Before the Age of Covid-19) have been virtual ones. For those of you who may not be as familiar with the Christian calendar, Lent is the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. This period of time is said to commemorate Jesus’ retreat to the wilderness to fast and pray. Growing up in the Episcopal Church we were instructed to give up something as a sacrificial offering during Lent. (A friend once told me he was giving up watermelon because it wasn’t in season anyway).
I like the symbolism inherent in this sacred season. Though the time period is longer, it reminds me of Yom Kippur in Judaism where the day is spent fasting and in quiet contemplation. Likewise, Lent is a time of sacrifice and contemplation. I find it almost ironic this pandemic is occurring during the Lenten season. Not by choice, we are forced into an uncharted wilderness. The sacrifices are massive—jobs, freedoms, even sacrificing our own health for the sake of others.
We have no choice but to pause and be mindful. Philosophers, psychologists, self-help gurus, and theologians have forever encouraged people to be present in the moment. Some people have heeded that call. But the rest of us? It took a pandemic to plant our selves fully in the present. We do not know what the morrow will bring. We do not know when the sacrifices will end. We don’t know when we will be able to sit in proximity with our peeps.
I was watching an episode of the Voice. One of the contestants commented, “It is surreal being here.” I found myself shouting “Surreal?! You don’t know surreal! Living through this pandemic is surreal!” (I totally acknowledge my over-reaction. I seem to be yelling at the television a lot. Especially during presidential press conferences. But that is the stuff of another post.)
It is awe inspiring to realize I am connected to every single person in the world right now through our mutual concern and focus on this virus. I have never in 66 years experienced such a surreal state. In spite of this dire situation, I have to say I don’t mind feeling this connection. This oneness with humanity. It is grounding to realize we are one in our fear and concern for our selves and each other. I am truly humbled by this realization.
In this stripped down state I’m feeling so grateful for my riches—home, family, friends, food, faith. I hope my newfound sense of humility and gratitude remains once this allegorical Lenten season ends. May we be members of a community compass guiding and helping each other as we navigate this wilderness.