Let’s be honest. We’re not wearing flip flops around here until June. Winter does what winter does and our work, as year-round residents of this beautiful place, is to find ways to live together with the cold and the snow and the ice and the gradual degrees of darkness. And so, I suppose I celebrate Ole’ Punxsutawney Phil’s willingness to look boldly into his own shadow, his repressed id, his unconscious. (Did you know Phil sees his shadow far more frequently than not?)
February, this year and many years, offers the faithful a similar course. The month begins with our gaze upward and outward, following Epiphany’s star. The work is exterior work. We seek enlightenment in our own surroundings. We look to others for guidance. We put our trust in the external. We might even try new things in new places. And, then, the cycle shifts. We find ourselves saying goodbye to the external or outward journey of epiphany staring toward a season of internal reflection, the season of Lent.
Lent calls the faithful, you and me, into a different posture—one that is focused inward. Our outward expressions, even within the Sunday liturgy, itself, become muted, quiet. We pause. We think. We think on our feelings. We might even deny things of ourselves in order to rearrange what’s on the inside in hopes of receiving messages from deeper within. Some of us allow our exteriors to be smudged with ash while we remind ourselves that we came into being out of the dirt of the earth, and some day, we will return there.
I LOOOOOOOOVE the dramatic transitions from Epiphany toward Lent and into Easter. It moves me. It makes me tender and open and soft. It forces a struggle sometimes, a good one—one that needs to be had. Groundhog or no groundhog, I encourage you, as I encourage myself, to buckle your seatbelt and let the church calendar carry you away and, then, within hopes of re-emerging, resurrecting. It’s not lost on me that the caterpillar seems the more hardy creature, and yet makes a transition to a glorious fragility that can soar.