There’s a really deep well inside me.
And in it dwells God.
Sometimes I am there, too.
But more often stones and grit block the well, and God is buried beneath.
Then (God) must be dug out again.
-Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life
Lent is often associated with the desert, for good reason. The desert figures prominently in the scriptures as a place of testing and refining. Lent is a time when we consciously let go of those things or habits that take our attention away from the sacred presence that is always among us. Some people focus more energy on practices of fasting and ways of letting go, while others focus more on taking something on for Lent as a positive focus. I find both of these energies important to the Lenten journey.
I know my life gets cluttered with all kinds of distractions and Lent invites me to simplify, to get back to the basics, in its very tangible reminder of ashes. In being marked with the ashes I am reminded that my life is precious, that all life is sacred. I am invited to return to the essence of who I am. We work so hard sometimes to keep from being who we really are.
The quote from Etty Hillesum above speaks to the ways we bury our holy essence. Lent invites us to dig God out again from beneath the rubble of our self-destructive choices. After we dig deep within ourselves and reconnect with the spark of the divine that the mystics tell us dwells in each person, then we also begin the work needed to keep that spark alive.
Sometimes this rubble and clutter is external as well as internal. I have been doing a lot of pruning of things again these last several days. Releasing things I no longer need frees up space in my life for what is most calling to me and acknowledges that ultimately I own nothing. Fasting from things makes me more aware of the energy they demand of me. While cleaning and clearing clutter can often be used as a distraction for engaging in the work of creative expression, I find it also is an essential step for me to move into the depth required by my creative work. It is a cycle and process I am growing to appreciate, even love, this movement between clearing space and then filling that space with new beginnings back and forth. We are never done with our letting go, we are never done with our welcoming in newness. In that new space claimed with intention and the hope of new possibility, my creativity begins to dance again in new ways. I am able to imagine a world even more beautiful.
The word Lent means spring. It is a time of pruning back those weeds that choke the life from our soul so that the seeds planted in us many months ago can break through the winter ground and blossom forth. What are the stones and grit of your own life? What needs to be cleared away for new life to be able to blossom?
(photo taken today of one of the first cherry blossoms bursting forth into the world)
-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts