About a year ago, I remember feeling a bit of mild panic as I took the last container of Clorox Wipes from a now empty shelf in Target. Something big was going on.

We had no idea, right? And in a way, it’s good we didn’t.

Now, a year later, Target stocks ten different types of wipes, as many flavors of hand sanitizer, and even toilet paper, though this feels tenuous. Supply chain interruptions seem mostly to have worked themselves out. But our lives are still full of bare shelves, whether actual or metaphorical. It’s the world itself that’s been interrupted. Much we once took for granted has gone missing.

On this blog, back in the pre-Covid era, we’d typically engage in an annual Lenten series, taking the 40 days leading up to Easter to read and reflect together. (We used my book Deeply Loved as a guide, read a past Lenten series here.) 

Last year, Lent slipped noiselessly by in a flurry of uncertainty and cancelled travel plans, crowded to the sidelines by fear and uncertainty about all things pandemic.

But this year, I’m wondering about Lent. I wonder if you’d like to join me in a conversation about it?

A season traditionally associated with giving up indulgences feels like too much to ask during a pandemic. We’ve given up so much already: seeing friends in person, dining out, going to work or school in person. For many, this has been a year of extreme deprivation, unemployment or losing loved ones to the virus. It has been a year of giving things up, and realizing how precious those things are to us. (Or made us realize we never really needed them—like commuting or wearing dress pants.)

For some of us, it’s also been a year of comforting ourselves with things we might normally give up for Lent: alcohol, coffee, chocolate, carbs. The idea of giving those things up feels more unfair than ever.

I’m curious about Lent during a pandemic. Should we observe it, and if so, how? What can we set aside in order to make room for better things in our lives? What if we found a new approach, a different perspective?

During the pandemic, many of us gave up things that would perhaps have been better not to. I kind of gave up going to church, because just “watching” church online felt exhausting and disconnected to me. And frankly, I was becoming jaded about church because of recent scandals and failures of leadership at a church I’d called home for three decades. For the last year or so, my Sunday mornings have been spent in what I call “the cathedral of the trail run,” at a local forest preserve with a few running buddies (socially distanced).

That little community of runners felt like a lifeline to me, as we ran several times a week. Running along trails as the sun rose connected me with God in a profound way. I’d given up church but not community.

We live in a deeply divided country, we’re still full of fear and suspicion of others. I wonder what I can give up during Lent to begin to change that? Can I give up trying to change people’s minds? Can I give up having to be right? Can I unclench my fists and let go of the fear, the anger, that I hold there like an addiction?

Truth be told, my base instinct is to hope to change others rather than myself. But Lent is a time of introspection, of self-examination. What is true of me? What needs to be cleaned out, let go? What, if I removed it, would create space for peace?

Rather than further deprivation, could we think of Lent as a sort of de-cluttering, a making room, spiritually speaking. During lockdowns, many of us Kondo’d our closets or even renovated our homes. We learned the value of winnowing down our stuff, of making space.

Could Lent be a time to de-clutter our souls, to make room in our hearts and minds to give attention to what matters most? When we make space, we must ask—what are we making space for? When we give up something, what will flow into that void?

I have no prescription, no three easy ways to make the most of this season. Like you, I’m often just hanging on, but I know this: talking together, reminding ourselves of what is true–it helps. So beginning on Wednesday, February 17, the first day of Lent, I hope you’ll join us. (The subscribe box is to your right, so you don’t miss a post)  I’m going to make a weekly practice of writing, and hopefully, engaging in conversation around these questions:

What practices can we engage in during Lent that will heal our quarantine-weary souls? How can this season of reflection and simplicity become a time of healing?