February has slipped into March. Just like that the calendar turns, the days keep passing by, the clock ticks on. The wind howls, but not in the piercing way of bitter winter wind. It is spring wind, speaking of things to come, new seasons approaching. The days are moving ahead, and hearts everywhere wonder are we also moving forward? Is all this constant motion propelling us onward, or is it merely commotion – throwing noise and jobs and the daily grind into the air as it makes a cyclone of chaos around our frenzied hearts?
The fourth week of Lent is already here. The season of less. The season of emptying. The season that we ponder what we would be without the cross. There is a poignant sense of desire as we cross into March, the month when spring blooms and hope is so tangible we could reach out and feel it flow through our fingers.
“Notice how it feels to be alive,” the yoga instructor tells me right in the middle of a difficult stretch. My body is quivering with fatigue, my temperature is rising. This is no gentle walk through a quiet park. I am exerted, it takes effort to hold my body above itself. I breathe deep and keep myself from collapsing. It feels hard to be alive.
I walk across a windy parking lot. I’ll take any other weather condition, just keep the wind away. But mother nature pays no care to my request. My hair is whipped around my face and I suck in my breath. The air reaches my lungs and I feel it fill my body with vitality. I notice how it feels to be alive.
Noticing takes effort. Stillness is needed. Deliberation, focus, alertness required. But without noticing we get swept right into the cyclone of commotion, right along with the chaotic world we’re trying to navigate through. The raging wind will take us all with it on this ride, it pays no attention to what’s in its path. It plows ahead and takes any who aren’t heedful enough to move themselves into a place of refuge.
Maybe that’s what the Lenten season is supposed to be about. Moving ourselves off the fast track that ends in mad chaos and entering into a place of contemplation. Maybe March should actually be less about the march we’ve been slogging on through and more about noticing where our hearts are as we move thoughtfully through the days. Because the days will move forward whether we notice them or not, Easter will come bidden or unbidden.
It’s a bit of a risk, slowing down to notice how it feels to be alive. You might notice the things you were trying to forget. You might notice the feelings you thought you’d suppressed. You might notice your weakness, your quivering muscles and weary bones. You might notice ill health, relational fractures, unrealized dreams. It may be easier to leave your life unnoticed. To plough forward, march onward, get through the days as painlessly as possible. No one would blame you. Being honest with yourself will cost something, and maybe it is not worth that price.
But, hypothetically speaking, let’s say you venture into the realm of noticing. What would you find? What would happen if you scraped aside the shell your heart has been encrusted in and dared to look inside?
May the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, we pray. May the thoughts of my inner world be acceptable in your sight, O God my rock and my redeemer. I would rather these unspoken words be scoured, I’d like to see a little spring cleaning be done before I invite God in to inspect my heart. But He would rather take it as it is. All that he requests is that it be malleable in his hands.
The wind continues to rage outside. But indoors it is quiet. In the middle of the commotion there is a moment of stillness. We notice how it feels to be alive.