For me as a Christian, the week ahead is a special time as we move toward Easter– the holiest of days in the Christian calendar. This week, called Holy Week is when we complete the season of Lent–those forty days prior to Easter that mark when Jesus Christ drew away into the desert before the journey to the cross. Throughout Christ’s life, he went away for needed time alone when he was preparing for what was ahead. I think of it as an example of how our souls need time and space when we’re being prepared for what’s ahead.
While I know that not all of my readers are Christians, I think everyone can identify with having times in our lives when we feel we’re going through a desert experience. We didn’t ask for the experience– it was just thrust upon us by life. We don’t understand the “why?” of it. Sometimes we look back and may see a reason.
Over the past year of the pandemic, I think that to some degree we’ve felt like we were having a universal experience of being forced into a desert–cut off from others–not by choice. As we begin to move out of the pandemic, things opening up, it feels right that it coincides with Easter, with Spring.
I think back on the year of the pandemic and remember the months of sheltering in place. For me, that occurred during the months of marital separation before my divorce last November. The house was quiet and empty with no other person and not even a dog. That space allowed for lots of time to think through many unresolved issues from my life, of a marriage that ended after forty years. Normally, I would have been able to escape that soul-searching and lighten up with a night out of dancing with my friends. I would have been able to go shopping without thinking about exposure to COVID and distract myself from the internal business at hand. I could have easily put off the tasks of pulling together financial papers and cleaning out a house to prepare for the market.
But without those escapes, the ability to move about freely like we did before the pandemic, I was forced to stay put in my desert cell.
Looking back, I’m amazed at all that I’ve accomplished since everything shut down last March. I don’t think I would have had the focus if I’d had my usual schedule dotted with activities. Those quiet nights at home, were sometimes ‘dark nights of the soul’ but were also times when I felt most able to hear God’s voice– without all the distraction. While I was going through papers, cleaning out closets, emptying a garage I had the companionship of God’s gentle voice speaking to me, helping me to find my way through.
Recently I’ve been rereading sections of Sue Monk Kidd’s book, When the Heart Waits. I originally read it when I was in my early forties and feeling the restlessness of entering midlife. What spoke to me was how Kidd found a chrysalis by chance on a weeknight walk in late February. It became an important symbol for her soul’s growth. That encased home of the developing butterfly would teach Kidd important lessons about being willing to linger in the darkness, waiting while internal changes were incubating.
I think of what I need to finish up in my time in the desert that has been like the dark world of a chrysalis.
I can see the tangible things I’ve accomplished during that time: the steps of the divorce, moving, settling into my new home. But how have I changed internally? What will be different when I unfurl my new wings that were formed in the darkness of that encased space?
What colors will emerge, what type of butterfly have I become over the months of the pandemic?
It takes 8-12 days, depending on the temperature, for a butterfly to be formed within the chrysalis. When it’s time for the creature to emerge, its wings are small and wet. They need time to dry and to be exercised before the butterfly takes off. Its a reminder to me that I may need to emerge slowly from my chrysalis, from my desert cell that has been dark and my eyes will need time to adjust to coming out into the light.
In this video by Jefferson Lab, they note that “after nine days of behind the scene changes, the adult monarch butterfly is ready to meet the world!” Perhaps I, like many of you, feel ready to “meet the world.” As I head out into that light, I’ll let my new wings slowly unfurl, preparing for the flight ahead.
Best to you as you emerge out of your chrysalis, your time in the desert.