Lent reminds us to slow down, to take a breath, to reconsider the lives that we’re leading. Often, it’s just what we need in the midst of a packed schedule.
As I looked over my calendar and my mounting to-do list, I was shocked to realize that we had flown through February and were already into March.
I had to check my rising stress levels. Between doctor’s appointments, preparing for a move, trying to set up child care, finding pediatricians and simply continuing to work and maintain my normal schedule, life has gotten much more chaotic. Each moment seems to result in another task added to the to-do list.
So, as I marked the date for Ash Wednesday in my calendar, I heaved a sigh of exasperation. Yet another item on the list. Somehow, in the midst of all my regular and new-found tasks, I’m supposed to find spare time in which to reflect, to fast and pray during the Lenten season.
It was a moment of overwhelming anxiety. In that moment, I could literally feel the increase of my pulse, my heartbeat rising as I thought of all the things that already fail to get accomplished in the day and necessarily get moved to the next day. How could I possibly add yet another aspect to my overscheduled life?
Rather than continue filling out my planner, I stopped and took a nap. It’s one of the more joyful aspects of pregnancy for me. Babies need all the sleep I can get.
During that time, my subconscious filtered my anxiety through information gleaned from a recent six-episode documentary that I watched on the brain. The documentary began observing the neural development of babies as they observe the world around them. It ended with the question of life after death and the scientific move toward cryonics, or the freezing of the human body or parts of it – like the head and brain – for a future involving resuscitation. The reasoning for such desires is beyond me; immortality holds no fascination.
But as I watched the final episode, I remember clearly thinking of my own life and the afterlife promised by our faith. What might that look like? In thinking of all my loved ones who have gone before me, I wondered where they were. We’re promised a final encounter and judgment before God. And yet, we have only our faith to rely on for this understanding.
It was the first time I’ve seriously considered life after death and the haunting sense of the unknown. Perhaps it has to do with the lives growing inside of me, of my sudden realization that when my life ends, theirs will continue. And yet, it’s hard to say with exact certainty what those pearly gates look like and what the resurrection of our souls will entail.
When I woke up, I was in a panic. Returning to my planner, I recalled my anxiety about adding moments for reflection, for Lenten prayer, for fasting. And I realized that Lent doesn’t have to be that difficult. There are plenty of moments in the day that I use for scrolling social media, or doing mundane, non-essential things.
Those are the moments that should be used for my own spiritual renewal. Because our earthly bodies are just that – of the earth, fragile, weak shells of humanity. But our souls are worth so much more.
Dr. Heather Bozant Witcher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.