Lent is the most personal of the liturgical seasons. Advent is caught up in the frenzy of the pre-Christmas rush. Advent is also shorter and more prone to social events and cocktails. By contrast, Lent is subdued. Quiet. Lent is the season that stands in the corner stirring the same drink all night. Lent is a loner
Maybe this is why we struggle each year to figure out what to do with Lent. Lent doesn’t come to us with party hats and noisemakers. There is no Lenten tree to decorate. Lent is a blank page and we are holding the pen. There are no lines on the page to guide us. We are alone with ourselves and the possibilities. Sometimes we find something to focus on, to give up, for Lent. We can define the seasons by what we refrain from rather than what we embrace. For six weeks we can live without chocolate and tell our friends how well we are doing living without chocolate rather than spending time in solitude telling God how not well we are.
Maybe if we apply some temporary pain in the form of deprivation we can mask the echoes rebounding in the hollow spaces of our lives.
Jesus sought solitude. Jesus prayed in solitude. Jesus was tempted in solitude. Jesus spent the last night of his life is solitude. Jesus died on the cross in solitude. That sounds awfully bleak. But Jesus also rose in solitude. And in rising, Jesus passed through the solitude to return to the community of which he was a part. He came back not only risen, but glorified.
We need not fear the deep places. We should see opportunities for solitude as a gift. The psalmist writes, My whole being is depressed. That’s why I remember you. Deep calls to deep at the noise of your waterfalls. All your massive waves surge over me. By day the Lord commands his faithful love; by night has song is with me. A prayer to the God of my life.