March 2 is Ash Wednesday, the start of the 40-day liturgical season of Lent. For the last two decades, Lent has been one of my favorite seasons. I’ve enjoyed the way the practices of spring cleaning and planting have coincided with spiritual practices that do the same sort of housekeeping and seed planting in my soul. The mid-week worship opportunities and small group Bible studies have kept me grounded and focused on the good news of God’s redeeming work in Jesus and helped me connect with my church friends. All of this culminates in the sacred days of Holy Week, when we enter into the mystery of God’s sacrificial love and resurrection promise. Honestly, I love Lent.
But this year I find my stomach turning to knots and my stress beginning to rise as I think about the coming season. Oh, I’m plenty excited this year’s theme. We have planned some innovative and special things for worship. But overlaying the anticipation is a thin layer of dread. As March begins and the weather begins to change, the smell of the spring ground stirs up memories from two years ago, when, halfway through Lent, life as we knew it changed completely. My body now associates this time of year with the fear, the not knowing, the washing of hands and disinfecting of groceries. I remember recording services in my living room and then going to the dining room to help teach first grade. I remember the frustration and grief that came with throwing away all the Holy Week plans we had made and trying to figure out something new. And then needing to do it all again the next year. And now, here we are, two years later, and the memory remains, warning me not to hope too much.
This is what trauma does. It gets inside the deepest parts of our brain and impacts our bodies and emotions in ways we might not even connect to the source of the distress. We all have been through a traumatic experience in the last two years. The signs will be different for many of us, but the source of healing likely is the same. Experts tell us time and time again that the best source for healing and resilience in the face of trauma is being part of a caring community. Exactly the kind of community our congregation seeks to be.
And so this Lenten season we will enter into the holiest days of the year with a trauma lens, learning to recognize the signs of trauma and toxic stress in ourselves and others. Even more importantly, we will focus on the five healing gestures that have been shown to aid in healing trauma and building resilience. We will use scripture, worship, and small group studies to learn how to celebrate, collaborate, care, listen, and inspire one another. I hope that you will join our community of faith this Lent as together we find our way into renewed spirits, restored faith, and healthy souls. We hope you will invite others who might be looking for some spiritual nourishment this season. Lent still holds a special place in my heart. And I am praying regularly that this year Easter will find all of us with renewed spirits and looking forward with hope.