Lent in the Fields of Eden (Ash Wednesday)

Lent in the Fields of Eden
Ash Wednesday, 2013

Lent has been a sacred season for me since high school, but I think the tradition roots back into forgotten elementary-year experiences at Trinity Lutheran Church in Eden, Idaho.

High School was when I started to take interest in the changing of the seasons – and there’s no change more desired than the warmth of spring outgrowing the frosts of winter. Lent is rooted right in the heart of this annual experience and I remember connecting the silence and prayer of Lent with the warmth of Spring.

I would celebrate this connection by spending warm (briskly so) evenings watching the passing sunlight give way to the Evening Star. I enjoyed the silence and the space for reflection, especially from the asphalt shingled floor of my mother’s rooftop. From up there, I would look west through the leafless, empty trees and watch the bare field dirt gobble up the sun’s warmth. The orange beauty (which is beyond the capacity to paint) I would savor for minutes, maybe an hour, as the constellations took their positions.

Each Wednesday in this springtime routine, I would drive with my mother and younger brothers south of our small town (Eden, Idaho; 400 people) down the familiar, hilly three miles to Trinity Lutheran Church; there we would sit down for a soup supper and then head to prayer.

The subdued feel of fewer people in church (the same people who naturally became my “favorites”) mixed with the subdued light in the western windows to create the perfect ambiance for prayer and meditation. The faith of others in the sanctuary was palpable on these nights – the people’s postures and strong singing of memorized Lenten hymns drew me into imitation.

…I had often wished we could stay there in the sanctuary after the singing had stopped just to be there to think, to pray. But: I followed the group and we all eventually went home.

Stargazing and worship would build up to the most cherished part of Lent. It wasn’t Good Friday, or Lent’s demise – Easter – but the dark vigil we would keep from the end of Good Friday services till sunrise on Easter. This was my favorite. I would sign up for my hour and secretly hope no one else would sign up behind me, making me feel like I got a two for one.

Pale white light shown behind the cross against the wall in the middle of the most beautiful and simple stained glass window. An “eternal light” flickered it’s red electric candle bulb above the lectern. This was it. The pale light and me. No: the presence of God and me.

All the sunset vigils and prayer-wrestling culminated in this sanctuary solitude. This is where God would have the last word and I would sit there pouring over a Gospel or Epistle, soaking it in.