From now until the end of April we are in what in the Christian Calendar is known as Lent. Lent is the season in which we consider giving up something we are accustomed to in order to focus the lens of our lives on what truly matters, be it love, belonging, or the coming of new life. Lent is a preparation for the resurrection, whether it be Jesus, love or the beating life of this green earth.
Like all sacrificial seasons (Ramadan for Muslims and Passover for Jews), Lent also reminds us to take up something more important than ourselves. This season I have decided to give up complaining and take up appreciation. Complaining is natural enough; we have an expectation of a certain outcome and we are disappointed when that outcome fails to come about. In response to our disappointment we protest to whoever we think caused that shortcoming; be it an institution, an individual, or the fates of our many desires.
What I have learned in this practice these last few weeks is, first of all, complaining is really a waste of time and good energy. But more importantly I have learned that I have reason to celebrate what is right over what is wrong. Dewitt Jones, who has for many years been a lead photographer for National Geographic, points out that our vision controls our perception. What we focus on determines our reality. If I am focused on what I don’t have I will only see more of that I want. But if I focus on what I do have, well then, the world opens up before me. One day last week I went out in the predawn morning to let the dogs out. It was cold and I started to grumble about the cold, until I remembered my Lenten vow, stopped and looked to the east. And ‘lo, the cold of that early spring morning made possible the most amazing sunrise I can ever remember seeing; purples, oranges, and streaks of yellow firing forward into a new dawn. God, I thought, might be just like this. What we see is what the world is to us.
Communities are not perfect. In fact, it is their imperfection that drives a rich diversity. I realize now in this season of emerging new realities that there will always be a tension between what could be and what should be. I choose what could be every time. And in so doing I, hopefully, choose possibility over scarcity, together and in our own lives. As Dewitt Jones says “celebrating what is right does not deny the very real pain on this planet and in our lives. But what celebrating possibilities does do is put our pain into the larger context of what is beautiful. Change your lens.”
The light we have doesn’t just shine on us, it shines within us. When we see the beauty of our world and each other right before our eyes, we give justice to beauty and the good. There is more than one right answer to almost any question. Step back from your complaints, disappointments and fears and look through another lens. And when you do, then you are ready to be reborn.
Here is the TED talk that Dewitt Jones gave that has been so inspiring for me and so many others.
With Grace and Grit - John