Perspective is Everything During Lent

The high this week is forecast to be 78. What would be cool in the summer, this will be a record high for February in the Central Valley. It will feel warm, but what would a Minnesotan say, especially this month?

Perspective.

As I write this, Ash Wednesday begins the liturgical season of Lent, a time of fasting, repentance and almsgiving. The quiet and sobriety of Lent were once challenging, but now I rather like the memento mori, the time to remember that the days of our lives are passing. I believe there is something good on the other side of a life well-lived.

Perspective.

When my husband tilled the weed-filled zone that could be lawn, the absence of vegetation looked like potential, not barrenness.

With a six-week-old snuggled against me in a Moby Wrap, my nine-year-old daughter and I planted clover seeds in that zone. It felt like hard work with the sun beating down on us, sweat coming from our foreheads and my sides because Moby Wraps lack breathability. We were tired and thirsting after following directions to lightly rake the seeds into the soil. Sitting on the desk, enjoying grapefruit-flavored sparkling water, we talked about Little House on the Prairie and, to me, the work did not seem so bad. Feeling my daughter lean against me as she held a piece of ice in her mouth, savoring the flavor of a drink she rarely gets, it felt like no hard work at all.

Perspective.

Good times or hard times, they come; it is our perspective that dictates the lens through which interpret this story. “Begin with the end in mind” the saying goes.

If each experience is an opportunity for growth, that changes the tone of life’s challenges no matter how easy-going or painful they may be.

There are those times that are so overwhelming when so much of our bodies are demanded that our ability to process cognitively languishes, that we can lose perspective. The suffering, the sleep deprivation, the physical toll seems endless. What happens then?

Our mind continues to interpret through a lens, but we may not realize it. We do not hear it, because we do not stop to listen. There is too much noise, whether from too much crying, too many children’s voices, too many interruptions or too much social media. We try hard to dampen the silence with more noise because once we are unaccustomed to sitting, musing, being with our thoughts, letting them evolve, it is hard to know where to begin. The silence feels like an absence because it comes to us so rarely.

But silence is rich, like that field empty of plants. It is full of potential. There are seeds under the surface. There are the stubborn weeds determined to grow back. And there is space.

There is space for clover seeds.

There is space in silence for our next step, our understanding, our reflection.

That is the silence of Lent. That is the power of intermittent fasting. That is the breath of air that comes from a social media break.

How badly we need these experiences and how rarely they come in a country full of opportunities without making a deliberate choice.

The temperatures may be record-breaking and the ongoing need for rain is cause for concern, but I suspect the boom of heat will help those clover seeds grow. Very little in the natural world is black and white. Some good can come out of very bad things.

I sit here

beside my open window, listening to the cars swooshing by, feel the warmth pouring through my bedroom window and smell the scent of cedar and soil and springtime sun. Further in the house, a boy cries because he does not want to do his math. A baby cries to be held. A husband holds it all together so I can sit here and have this moment.

Were it not for the silence of this room, the view of the backyard, the time to pause and reflect, I might see things differently. In the middle if the night, feeding a newborn, I usually do. Perspective will not come by itself. And in the case of my lawn, neither will the clover.

Photo by Timothy Dykes on Unsplash

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