We had an enormous wind storm last night in New England. Along the coast where I live, the winds howled around us, pulling up trees, downing wires, pushing in the ocean waters until they surged over landings and roads. Waves crashed in our coves, leaving in their wake tangled seaweeds, soaking driftwood, broken boards, straw, broken glass, and bedraggled birds.
The electric power went out last night somewhere between the Olympic ski races and the women’s long program in figure skating. And it didn’t come back on until late this afternoon. Early in the morning, we made a couple of car trips, one to visit my mother, 45 minutes away, because we couldn’t reach her by phone. (She was fine). Then we checked the church, and found the willow in the playground broken in several places. Inside all was dry, though no power there either. We eventually found out from neighbors on the street that several thousand people were without power in Massachusetts, most of them in Essex County where we live. The storm had done a lot of damage.
Lack of electricity put me in mind immediately of Lent, and its austere mood, its astringent spiritual cleansing, the way it strips away pretentions. Wilderness journeys bring out a certain kind of honesty. What do you really need on this trip? Can you travel more lightly? What else can be left behind? What else can be let go? One of my friends who calls himself a cynic (he isn’t) says that everyone has a secret T-shirt he or she wears. And it has a big logo on it reading: I’M IMPORTANT. I’m not sure I agree with him, but if it is true, Lent is the season that strips away that T-shirt. It’s a season of dying to self-concern and self-centeredness.
Today, without electricity, life became much simplier suddenly. It wasn’t very cold outside, so we didn’t feel really uncomfortable. What we did experience was a long quiet day, after we got back. There was no noise in the house, which was nice, and nothing we really could do but sit, talk together, sleep, or walk the dog.
It was a day that lent itself to introspection, and mulling, musing over this and that, a spacious sort of day. Somewhere, sometime before the power came back on, Sabbath rest wandered in; there was enough room and enough stillness for deep quiet to enter and make itself comfortable. At least for a few hours.
Wilderness journeys offer the promise of silence and surrender. We don’t have to wait for a power outage to have them. Lent gives us a taste of those things. May quiet rest and sacred silence accompany you on this wilderness road we travel.