A Boomer’s Journal: Working through the Browns and Grays of Lent
By Tom Anselm
Brown is the color of the day, these days. The bare treegroves shoot back little of the suns reflection. On gray days, they stand even more somber. And even though we can’t say it’s been a bad winter, winter still it is, and the leaf-less branches echo that reminder.
It is in this time of nature’s rest that there comes for many who espouse to Christian or Jewish faiths a time of reflection, of taking stock, of harking back to the traditions of our ancestors. For some, it is the Lenten season, the word “lent” coming from the Old English word “lencten”, meaning “season of spring.”
But Spring is not yet upon us. It is but a whisper on a warmer day, a tease of a breeze carrying the promise of the next change. We know we are nearing the end of the brown and bare, and are looking forward to soft rains, the sun’s stay and new growth.
Want to “give up” something for Lent.
When we were kids, we followed along with the idea of sacrifice. For me, it was usually ice cream or candy. I might have responded to a higher call, like not banging on my little brothers, but experience taught me that this wouldn’t last long, so I went with the more tangible food items. Did it make me a better person, prepare me for the day that many hold as the culmination of their faith? Not really. But it did keep me steeped in the feeling that this time was different, that change was expected.
This difference theme is found in the Jewish religion at the Seder, or Passover Meal, which usually coincides with Lent. At this commemoration, the youngest child asks “Why is this night different from all other nights?”. This is the recounting of the last plague of the Angel of Death as it “passed over” and saved their first-born sons, the event that finally moved the Egyptian Pharaoh to give the ancient Israelites release from their slavery. Muslims have Ramadan, a time for fasting and sacrifice and purification that comes later in the year. Theirs too is a “refraining” from things that take us away from what we should be.
Buddhist’s celebrate Bodhi Day, or Enlightenment Day, observed by prayer and meditation.
It is change we all are seeking. A new and better way of being.
And so it is with the promise of the season to come. We will see it in the shoots of the crocus, in the buds on the branches, in the swollen bellies of the robins. We will smell it after the rain, feel it on our warmed cheeks. But that time is not here. Not yet. We can’t hasten it, we have to work through the coming weeks. But we have hope that it will come.
One of our granddaughters, six-year-old Elise, was not feeling like going to her religion classes. She was tired from a full day of First Grade, and was laying across the couch.
“I don’’t wanna go” she moaned to her mommy. “I already know everything about God. I even know his favorite color.”
Intrigued by this announcement, her bemused mommy said “Really? What’s God’s favorite color?”
“It’s all of us.”
Well, maybe this fair child is way ahead of us. She has a head start on one of life’s mysteries. But as for me, I know I am not there yet, on so many levels. I need this time that is upon us to work through the browns and grays and move closer to the light. And I know this work will not be in vain.
(Tom welcomes your comments. Send to firstname.lastname@example.org or @tganselm.)
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