Posted by: jevcat | February 28, 2012

Easing Into Lent

Yesterday was the first Sunday of Lent, and I am a bit ahead of schedule.  Usually, it takes me until sometime in the first or second week of Lent to really settle myself into it, to decide what I am giving up and/or adding, and to reconcile myself to the season, but this year I feel a bit closer to being ready for it than usual.

Lent is not the easiest time of the church year.  A friend from our parish posted plaintively on Facebook, “Is anyone else bummed out about Lent?”  The answer would be “yes.”  The argument about Lent starts in our house well before Ash Wednesday.

My Beloved, raised Lutheran and early on having intended a career as being  a pastor (he wound up an engineer in high-energy physics, which some would say was more like being God), positively hates Lent.  I used to feel the same, but my feelings about Lent have mellowed over the years.  I agree with him on some levels, but I have come to see Lent as more than a season of “Oh, what a lowly worm am I” – and in fact, that attitude seems to me not just unhelpful but theologically objectionable, as well.  Given that we are told we were made in God’s image and the value God seems to have placed on us, we can’t be quite as worthless as all that.

To me, Lent has become a time for soul-searching, for self-examination, for goading myself into doing things I’ve wanted to do, meant to do, know would be good for me.  Years ago, as part of my Lenten discipline, I started meditating daily, a practice I have more or less continued – with a few breaks – for decades now.  About ten years ago, I started making a workout part of my regular (though I will not lie and say daily) routine during Lent, something I have continued and which, done before my morning meditation time, seems to feed into and contribute to it.  Last year, I gave up Diet Coke for Lent, and, since Lent 2011 ended, I still have it occasionally, but I’m down to maybe a can or two a week from a can or two a day.

My Beloved hates the idea of giving something up for Lent, and I know my refusal to eat meat on Ash Wednesday or on Fridays in Lent is a trial to him and an irritant in his meal planning, but, as I tell him, it is a reminder to me,

It’s a reminder that no matter how little I have in comparison to what I used to have, I still have more than most people in the world materially, and in the non-tangibles, I’m rich indeed.  A reminder that I am flawed, just as other human beings are, and so I should have compassion on them – and me.  A reminder to take time to stop and pay attention.  A reminder of God – and that “sacrifice” is not a dirty word.  And a reminder that all Christian life is not just a journey, but the way of the cross, whether we like it or not.

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Responses

  1. I can’t say that I like Lent but, after nearly 20 years as an aspiring Christian, I’m getting used to it and figuring out how to “do” it in ways that are helpful without being mere spiritual gymnastics. I do have a fond memory of a Lenten visit with you, when we got our tuna sandwiches at Subway and sat by the water, talking and knitting; watching beautiful birds. That sort of thing is Lent at its holiest…

    • That was a lovely day, Francesca. The holy is there, if we look for it.

  2. I also see Lent as a nurture time for us to pay attention more and not give up anything but to be plugged in for more insight and soul communion to receive more of the gift.

    • I think giving up something can have its place, but it’s been too emphasized, as though it were the only thing, and an end in itself.


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