In the summer of 2017, Mark and I led the River of Life Connecticut River Pilgrimage – a 40-day journey of prayer and reconciliation with the land. I invited the more than 50 pilgrims who joined us to return to the prayers from our pilgrimage this Lent. Throughout the season of Lent, I am writing weekly reflections drawing on the themes from the Connecticut River Pilgrimage. They are also being posted by Kairos Earth, the organization that sponsored the pilgrimage. Enjoy!
The earth has begun to thaw in my home region – the Upper Valley along the Connecticut River – with unseasonably warm 40+ degree days. When the frozen ground begins to melt in Vermont, where the majority of the roads are dirt, we experience mud season – the messy, mucky, unwieldy transition from winter to spring. This season, the limbo between the frozen waters and waters that flow clean and free, is an apt metaphor for grace.¹
Grace is good news. It is the gift of God’s infinite and loving presence available to us at every moment. It is the freedom that does not bind us to our past faults, foibles, and ways of being and acting that wrought pain to the world and ourselves. It is the promise that true healing of our wounds, relationships, injustices, and the earth is possible.
Yet in the transition from our hardened, frozen hearts to life, freedom, and wholeness we need to walk through some muck. When we seek to discard idols and attachments that we may experience the infinite riches of the present moment, our “senses will cry like disappointed children” (Jean de Pierre Caussade in The Sacrament of the Present Moment). When we embrace the freedom of forgiveness we need to look squarely at the pain we caused. When we work for true healing in our lives, our community, and the earth, we must first name the hurt, the disorder, the fracturing. We experience grace to the extent that we have eyes to see the reality of the world in front of us – the muck of wounding, injustice, and exploitation as well as the spring flowers of forgiveness, reconciliation, and freedom.
Lent, then, is our liturgical mud season. It is the season in which we fast and pray, intentionally looking at the places we have fallen short, grieving our role in the cycle of woundedness, and asking for the grace of a transformed heart.
May we embrace the difficult, uncomfortable, painful invitation of Lent, knowing that the muck is a sign of God’s fiery grace melting our hardened, frozen hearts.
¹It’s important to note that true mud season in Vermont is typically late March into April. The sloppiness of this week is unusual.