Four days into Lent. How are you doing?
The first few days of Lent always turn out differently than I plan. It’s usually about this time that I realize my plans for Lent are not quite what He had in mind. Two years ago our family was living temporarily in a small apartment in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was five of us, a 70 pound dog, and the cat all living cosily in a 900 square foot apartment. I had none of the usual kitchen luxuries, the kids had one room to share, and we all managed to cram ourselves into the rest of the tiny living space. I arrived in Arkansas 3 days before Ash Wednesday with elaborate plans to read Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man for Lent. It was going to be great.
Turns out, it really wasn’t great (and this had nothing to do with Chesterton!).
There was something about the plan I had painstakingly put together that just didn’t feel right. Lent had barely begun and already I was ready to toss it out.
And then, through the magic of Instagram, I came across the then then recently published Prayer Journal of Flannery O’Connor. Suddenly, my plans for Lent took off in an entirely different direction.
That was the beginning of a wonderful Lenten retreat wherein I drunk deeply of Flannery O’Connor, Servais Pinckaers O.P., and A. G. Sertillanges. None of them books I would have chosen, several of them books I hadn’t even heard of, and certainly not a group of books I would have thought to group together. And yet, there I was, some how corralled into the best Lent I had ever had.
I can only believe I was shepherded to that moment.
We’ve all terribly familiar with Psalm 23. For my part, it is laced up in the memories of my childhood, dotting the pages of Sunday School “workbooks” my Lutheran grandmother bound and then mailed to me.
As an adult Psalm 23 has made a somber appearance at more than a few funerals. It was there with me in the sorrow of a distance relative’s passing, and its familiarity held my hand in the passing of my dear mother-in-law.
But I can’t recall actually pondering this Psalm entering into the Lenten season. How many times I have I entered into Lent with a checklist? Something to give up, something to add, something to read. Stir well and add a generous portion of prayer. Let simmer 40 days and then celebrate at Easter.
But here, in this hymn, I am reminded that I do have a Shepherd and that He is there to guide me not only through dark valleys but beyond.
“...beyond my wants,
Beyond my fears, from death into life.”
I only have to ask.
Song performed by Sonia Salas, original music composed by Marty Haugen.
Take a moment to reflect on your Lent so far. Pray Psalm 23 and ask the Good Shepherd if indeed you are on the right path, or if you need to make some adjustments.
Is this the journey you picked, or He guided you to?