In the absence of somewhere I have to be, is there someone I want to be?
40 is not an arbitrary number.
Noah was on the ark 40 days. Moses was on the mountain for 40 days. Jesus was in the wilderness 40 days. Lent is 40 days.
There is a myth that it takes 21 days to change habits. Scientific research puts that number closer to 66. Midway between the myth and the science is 40, give or take.
Tennessee’s governor, Bill Lee, first announced the closure of schools on Monday, March 16. How many days ago was that? (An especially challenging question when all the days seem the same!) It was 35 days ago. 40 this coming Friday. He announced this past Wednesday that they would remain closed through the end of the year. How much longer is that? You guessed it, about 40 days.
Biblical knowledge would tell us that 40 days is an accurate stretch of time for a severe trial. Scientific knowledge would tell us it’s also adequate time to adopt new behaviors. Are you finding this to be true? Are you in the midst of a substantive personal transformation, mirroring on the micro level what is happening on the macro level? As my friend Father Timothy, the Dean and Rector at Christ Church Cathedral here in Nashville, recently said to me: If this doesn’t shake your spiritual core, I don’t know what will.
Two weeks ago to the question about silver linings, two different people shared musings about personal transformation of this kind. Their comments: I have realized I am ready to move out of the city and continue this slow living once this is all over. And: I see the pressure to bring my previous busyness into quarantine and instead my mantra to myself each day is “Who do I want to be during this time?” How do I want to show up for the people in my home, in my family, and in my ever widening circles of connectedness?
In the absence of somewhere you have to be, is there someone you want to be? When you emerge from the ark, when you walk out of the wilderness, who will you be? What values and priorities will guide you going forward? And if we all emerge as changed men and women, what will we be like as a whole? More fearful or less? More hungry to help or more shy to serve? More greedy or more giving? Have you moved the dial one way or another nearly 40 days in? Another 40 to go, and who will you have become?
A parting thought: it is 40 days from Easter until the Ascension. For 40 days, the resurrected Jesus was here on earth before he ascended to heaven. Why that long? Maybe because he knew it would take 40 days to ensure that we got the message. That we didn’t write it off as a dream or him as a ghost, and keep on the same as we had been before.