Today, the sun is shining, the cat is purring, and I’m off to visit the flamingoes. In the absence of a pancake party, they seem to be the right companions for Mardi Gras. There is a strange giddiness in the early spring. All around the world is whispering, ‘hope, dream, dare.’
For many years, it was the solemnity of Lent that I loved — the very challenge of it, as I walked through the cold blustry days of an East Neuk winter, or the unending snow of a New England March. I was fairly strict with myself then, keeping absolute fasts, carefully planning Lenten disciplines, finding it very hard to go to lectures or teach lessons on Ash Wednesday, never really relaxing till I was in church.
But it feels different now. Either I have become lazier, or my sense of God has become more gracious.
Discipline is important. I know how much difference it makes to pray in stable patterns: early morning silence, daily office, Eucharist. And I know that to do that, other patterns must be stable too: bed times and rising, meeting times and meals. The rhythms of the day, the rhythms of the liturgical year — at times, a hassle; at times, lost in busyness or complexity, but ultimately– a gift given to us for freedom.
When I set out on my jubilee year, it was a claiming of the freedom of the desert. I was leaving my work behind. I was leaving my patterns of life behind. I left knowing — at last knowing — what had long been true: that we can’t control what people think of us or say of us or make of our stories. There are lots of times in life when truth and perception fail to meet, and we find ourselves alternately on both sides of that chasm.
I’m learning to live with that. And that is a form a discipline too.
I want this Lent to be about freedom. I’m hoping for a warm blustery March that will shake us all of our illusions and leave us laughing in the midst of God’s grace. And I want that even in — especially in — those parts of our lives where pain remains, where new pains arise, where we cause and are caused harm, despite all our desires to the contrary.
And then, at Easter, I want kites. Bright shards of joy, riding on the winds.
I should not write when I wake giddy and yearning for flamingoes. It is sloppy and careless. A messy Mardi Gras parade. So be it. Today is for feathered flurry. Order and ashes tomorrow.