We are at the beginning of the Lenten season, but we pick up the story at the end. We’re watching Jesus’s life unfold as if we were watching a movie or a Netflix series in which we know the end and watch as gradually others come to realize what’s going to happen. Of course many of those who were closest to him had no idea until the very end, and even then they were frozen in horrified disbelief. What did Jesus know and when did he know it? One could argue that he knew as soon as he was old enough to reason where and how his life would inevitably end. After all, he had all kinds of prophesies and predictions that pointed to it.
Most of us have no such foreknowledge, so all we can do is the best we can to live in the moment as often as we can, to savor the life we have. How do we slow down and pull back from the mudanities of daily existence to see how beautiful life can be? I rush through my days–especially work days–with little attention until suddenly the day is over and I have no idea what happened. What did I learn, who did I help, when did I savor the beauty that is literally all around me?
This week I am attending a conference. This afternoon I sat in on a session about dealing with stress and burnout in the work we do. I listened to people in the room describing the various symptoms they were suffering and recognized them as things I have experienced. I have lived with stress and burnout and I don’t even have the urgency that Jesus did; lives are not immediately depending on the work that I do. And yet I find that I can get overwhelmed with all that I believe I have to do that I don’t take time to breathe deeply.
Jesus went through much of his ministry with a powerful sense of urgency. He knew his days were numbered, that he only had three short years to teach, heal, touch as many people as he could. Given all that he had to do, he was likely a workaholic. There were times he was too busy to spend time with his mother. I wonder how often he stopped to enjoy a beautiful sunrise, listen to birds sing, bask in a warm breeze off of the sea. That was why he needed to retreat to quiet places every once in a while to refresh and renew himself.
Lent is a time of introspection, of reflection on suffering and other key themes. And while it is a solemn time, that doesn’t mean that we as individuals can’t take a moment to notice beauty, to slow the hectic pace of some of our lives and be in the moment, whatever the moment brings. These 40 days will provide us plenty of time for quiet reflection, if we take it. And so it is, and so it goes, and so we shall.