Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Further Thoughts on Lent

It would seem that browsing the blog world on Ash Wednesday is a guilt inducing project for someone who has boldly (if somewhat glibly and also prayerfully) declared that this year what they are giving up for Lent is, well, Lent.  I've read post after challenging post this morning, detailing the intentions of some I know and some I don't for the next 40 days or so, as they seek to draw closer to God and prepare their hearts for Easter.

The truth is, the liturgical part of me, the part of me who spent five years at university basking in the history of the church and of the faith, feels just a bit longing today, as this Lenten season begins and I read of others entering into their chosen practices.  A text message yesterday from a friend who (accurately based on past experience) assumed that I might be attending a service somewhere today, and asking if she could join me, left me in the awkward position of explaining that no, I didn't have any intentions of attending a service, or of particularly practicing Lent this year.

But the part of me that loves history and tradition feels a bit bereft today, even knowing that a minimal Lenten practice is right for my heart this year.

And the truth is, that bereft feeling is a good thing.

It answers a question I'd been asking.  A question that is part of the reason for my decision to "give up Lent for Lent."

I'd been asking if that was truly a part of me, or if it was something I created in efforts to fit my surroundings and please others these last several years.

I'd remade myself in the image of others, in an image I perceived to be one that would gain me acceptance, love, and grace, and part of that remaking was an obsessive focus on the liturgical calendar and seasons.

There is a relief in that separating realization - that this thing that I'd claimed deeply part of me, truly is.

And so, this year, though I didn't eat pancakes last night, won't attend services today, and don't have any planned practices to span the next forty days, my heart will still engage with that.

I'll read blog posts and choose to feel joy for the authors - challenged and inspired by their chosen practices and sacrifices - rather than feel guilt for my own lack of outward sacrificial choices.

Tonight I'll go to a yoga class instead of a church service, and that will be okay, because yoga has been a gift to me in the quiet, peace and rest it has brought, the time to slow down and breathe and listen.

And I'll pray with attention, with intention, with joy and with peace, knowing that by choosing to "give up Lent" I am being obedient to the urging of God for my own heart, and that in this space, I will also be shaped and formed, though differently than other years.


christianne said...

I got a smile on my face as I read this part, especially the part where you said these observances and traditions have become a part of you that truly is. What a wondrous realization that must have been!

Your longing and bereft feeling of "missing out on" Lent reminds me of Lauren Winner's book "Girl Meets God." I'm sure you've read that book ... right? (And if you haven't definitely go right out and buy it right now!) She details the experience of moving from Orthodox Judaism to evangelical Christianity and how much she missed her Jewish practices and learned how to incorporate them into her current faith practice.

It's good to know your heart in this "Lent place," to know how you are holding this time, even as others are holding it differently. It helps me know how to hold you in my own heart in these 40 days.


Lisa said...

This comment makes me smile, Christianne.

Partly because, yes, it was indeed a wondrous realization, and I loved that you saw and understood that. I had very much remade my life over the past number of years, in the image of someone I sought to please, and liturgy was important to them, so I magnified it's importance to me. As I've been healing from some of those relationships and the wounds they've left me, I've been asking often which things are truly mine, from God, and which are things I created in an almost idolatrous image. And yes, liturgy, in some expression, though perhaps not as exacting as that which I've adhered to my life and calendar the last several years, is truly a part of my heart, and recognizing that for myself was huge.

As for "Girl Meets God", yes! I LOVE that book. So good. I may need to add it to my re-read soon list, now that you mention it :) Have you read her book "Mudhouse Sabbath" that goes further into the practices of Judaism and what Christians can learn from some of those practices? I'll quote you - if you haven't read it, go out and get it! :)

Thanks for holding me in your heart these 40 days. I felt the same after reading your own Lenten post yesterday and am returning those quiet prayers.