A reflection just before the half-term holiday and the start of Lent
It is the week before the spring half-term, which this year is also the week before the start of Lent. Two good reasons to take stock and see how far we got. Especially for those of us who have started something new at the beginning of the academic year, a lot will have happened since September, and it is good to take some time to see where we are.
I know that the image of a journey is overused, but think of it as being on your way to a summit and taking a brief moment to look down the valley to see where you have come from. It helps you put what lies ahead of you in perspective, but maybe even more importantly, it makes you realise that you’re no longer where you were before: something has changed.
Most of us will recognise the experience of going back home, or going somewhere familiar after having been away for a while. Although everything looks the same, yet, it feels different. That is not because your home has changed, but because we ourselves have changed. Often we don’t notice it, until we come back to something familiar, and realise something is different. And, I would like to suggest, that’s why it is worth stopping now and then to take stock, to see how we have changed, and maybe ask ourselves the questions How and Why?
Wondering how we have changed does not mean to say that we need to become completely different people. At the heart of the Christian faith is that we are all made in the image of God, yet we all make mistakes and have the potential to change for the better. It is something that comes with time and practice, but it is a good habit to get into if we would like to live lives with integrity. The realisation of how we have changed will also help us to acknowledge how we can continue to do so.
Equally important is the question Why? as it will give us an insight in which situations to try to avoid, and which things to seek out. As we get to know people better by living with them, and this is of course acutely important in a boarding context, we find out that some of them will energise us, whilst others somehow get the worst out of us. How do we respond to that and, again, how has it changed us, are important questions to ask.
For Christians, this time before Lent is an opportunity to take stock, and see what we need to change, and maybe can make a start with during Lent, as we prepare ourselves individually and collectively for the celebration of the Easter Mystery. It is therefore appropriate that the Gospel reading set for the Sunday before Lent is the Transfiguration, as we are asked to reflect on the impact of life-changing encounters. But more on that in a following reflection.
Lastly, as we take stock, look back and look ahead, maybe one thing we can all do is to think of how we can become more tolerant, more welcoming and kinder to those around us. The risk of any self-reflection is to forget others, but it’s true power is revealed when we start to realise what we have in common. The fact that I have made a journey and are about to continue, will probably mean that this is true for my neighbour as well. The fact that I am frustrated, disappointed at times, as well as fulfilled and happy, is likely to be real for others too.
And maybe at the root of all this is our ability to be thankful. Thankful for what we have and who we are, so that in the light of that we can take stock on journey on.