Thursday, April 13, 2023

lenten lands

“By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down and wept,
when we remembered Zion...
How shall we sing the Lord’s song
in a foreign land?”

~ Psalm 137

indefinite lent

As with any season of commemoration, Lent is equal parts remembrance and lived practice which points ahead. Both aspects, as they may be internalized, envelop our own references. For example, an observer of this season, which by definition concludes on Easter may be compelled to inhabit the time of year, may be compelled to inhabit the time of year and match their daily lives’ paces with the forty days whose start is Ash Wednesday. Speaking from my continuum, last year during Lent my landlords of many years notified all of us in the building to be ready to leave due to an impending sale. It’s been a protracted season of purgation and penitence ever since. In Lenten fashion, the season is one of mournful anticipation and persistent reach. Unable to find a sliver of mercy in my own hometown through four months of nonstop, full-bore searching and personal campaigning, the desperation move I had to make was to a cramped, remote, and oppressively loud hovel. Neither peace, nor comfort, nor space to unpack. Life by the Babylonian waters now slogs through its eighth month. Alongside the Psalmist, how do I sing the Lord’s song in an unwelcoming place? Applying the self-talk I wrote about earlier this year, there is a lifeline in my insisting that the current and painful exile is finite. This is transitional and something has got to give, considering all this unwavering effort. Yet at the same time, I’m careful not to presume to be owed anything. My intention is to press on.

spring takes shape

“Hell is the place of unsatisfied cravings,” Warren Weirsbe astutely observed in one of his broadcasts. I am intimately aware of this, vigilantly navigating a wilderness replete with roadblocks. En route to crosstown errands and to work, it is impossible not to notice the juxtaposition of elite waterfront construction and desperate homelessness along sidewalks and highway ramps. Both extremes of the housing scale are in vividly plain sight. The work I do requires extemporaneously helping the public, joining together learning and people; that means maintaining grounded and positive perspectives. And to be sure, genuineness and compassion must go together. After all, I must practice what I preach, implementing this for myself, too. Daylight extends, and I’m better able to run away from the invasive and shellshocking racket from immediately above those oppressively low ceilings. The best way out I can imagine is by perseverance, physically and spiritually, despite not having results in view. The present imperative is to hoist my spirits into spring. Last weekend, while Le Cirque des Éléphants upstairs was at full blast, with chair and journal out on the sidewalk, my exasperated stare probed the skies. Then I noticed sparrows collecting twigs, flying off with them, up toward their burgeoning abodes. Creatures such as these- including humans- have yearning instincts aimed toward survival. I’m reading the signs and taking notes.

expectations and exodus season

There is an Eastertide because there is a Passover season. Few really understand this. The chronology of purging and displacement must give way to resurrection and new promise, biblically and personally. Perhaps your own penitential season has also run off the calendar; you’re far from alone. Exodus is a search and an offer away. There’s nothing passive about it, to be sure. Easier said than done. How near I am to significant discovery cannot be forecasted. But while all my efforts, strength, soul, and savvy are pointed toward tangible improvements, I’m toiling away and keeping watch. At work, tenuous and temporary as it’s always felt, my industrious engagement unquestionably continues, as well as refining my innovations. During this pandemic era, many workers have had to compromise dreams, possessions- even homes and jobs. At times it takes twisting both arms to try counting blessings. An effective distraction (and a useful one, too) has been to help others succeed at their projects. A praying person intercedes for those in need. Turning within is necessary, but there are dangers: there are haunting reams of denied dreams, rejected applications, and elusive housing opportunities. At least I know enough to persevere in forward directions and dare to expect improvement. Every day, heaven help me. Too many evenings, after long workdays, returning to the compartment sends me back outside again to escape the building’s noise. Lengthened daylight provides expansive visibility, and the higher temperatures allow me to perch in the open air for longer periods of time. Pedestrians are more apt to stop and chat. By being seen, a friendly cat- who happens to be my favorite neighbor- can easily find me and ask for treats. Albeit on a shoestring, how about being hopeful just for its own sake? This is also the season of Divine Mercy.