Today is the first day of Easter. The first of fifty days that are about living out the lessons learned during Lent. It's a mental adjustment for me to see Easter as a season and not a day. It's more natural for me to see Lent or Advent as seasons, largely because they coincide with cultural or environmental seasons. But the longer I participate in a church that follows a liturgical calendar, the more I feel the rightness and value of this deep within me.
For Advent, Epiphany and Lent, I made journals to commemorate each season. By the end of each season, I was sad for the season to end, sad to say goodbye to my current journal. Yet each season has offered discrete and unique lessons. Lessons that are held, documented and remembered in those journals. Yesterday morning I created an Easter journal. I'm sure by the time Pentecost arrives, I'll be sad to close this journal for the final time.
As I sat at our Maundy Thursday service, I had the thought that Easter is for listening. I even contemplated putting that on the cover of the journal. I pondered this for a few days as I picked the colors and papers for my journal. As I planned the journal, I continued to think about listening. Perhaps Lent was for listening, not Easter. Then on Saturday morning I read this passage in Celtic Daily Prayer:
Let us do what our Lord did and rise early in the morning, whilst everything is at rest in silence and darkness, when sleep envelops everything in torpor, in profound quiet. Let us rise and watch with God, lifting our hearts to Him, laying our souls at His feet, and at this early hour when intercourse is so secret and so sweet let us fall at His feet and enjoy converse with our Creator. How good He is to let us come to His feet whilst all is sleeping. Whilst all is sleeping in silence and shadow, let us begin both our day and our prayers. Before our working day begins let us pass long hours praying at the feet of our Lord.
Yes, I think my Lent was for listening. It would, in fact, make perfect sense for me to discover the meaning of Lent on the very last day of the season. If there's one thing I've learned in my few years of observing Lent, it's that the season is rarely about what I think it's about on Ash Wednesday. This year's Lenten vow of walking or running every morning was so far out of left field that I had no idea what it might be about. As I told my counselor about it, she remarked, "I love that you don't see this as a way to lose weight. That's not even on your radar as you approach this." That continued to be the case throughout Lent.
My morning ambulations were far more about spiritual growth than physical fitness. I'm not a morning person, yet I found that once I was out of bed and on my way, walking was the perfect way to start my day. I was able to be awake and alone for thirty or forty-five minutes without ever speaking aloud. My mind was able to be quiet and receptive. It was almost like I dreamed conversations with God on those morning walks.
Lent was about listening - and not only listening to God, but to my body and my soul. I found out what clothing I like best on cool mornings, what to wear when it rains and that I need a new pair of shoes. I found that quiet wakefulness can be more restful than a few minutes of extra sleep in the morning.
What will Easter be about? Right now I'm not very sure. I would like for Easter to be more active on my part than Lent has been. I'd like to not just receive, but give. I'd like to not just listen, but talk. But I've been incredibly overwhelmed by life over the last ten days, so I'm not sure I'm in the position to offer much on my own. In fact, that's another lesson I learned this Lent: I can do very little in my own power. I can't even see my own sin without help, much less change and make myself more whole. So whatever Easter is about, it will have to be about doing it in the resurrection power of Jesus, not the barely-holding-it together power of Shannon.
I've read that we Christians are Easter people. It's what we celebrate on Easter morning, not Christmas morning, that sets us apart from others. It's what was missing from that grave all those years ago that makes us able to live out of a power and peace that is not our own. It's the fact that someone fully God and fully human once loved (and still loves) us enough to let that love take his life from him, but not defeat him in death.
I want to be an Easter person. I want this season of my life to be one that sees me face life's uncertainties, challenges, joys, disappointments and surprises with peace, grace, humility and strength. I want to be an Easter person.