I didn’t grow up in a liturgical church. In fact, I was raised non-denominational. They were Protestants who were very protestant of liturgical practices. There was no recitation of prayers. Because all of the men were ordained ministers we had different speakers every week. Communion was done with various types of bread and juice. We certainly did not practice Lent.
It wasn’t until I was in college that I first decided to give something up for Lent. The deprivation still rings in my mind as having a profound effect on my faith. It heightened my awareness. It made me literally think of Jesus all throughout the day. I enjoyed the discipline.
Now, as a humanist and intermittent non-theist, the practice of Lent has a different focus for me.
The winter has taken its toll on my well-being. I am sluggish and struggling to find motivation. I am weak with desire. All my stores of willpower and stamina have become soft like stored apples.
But, the Spring is coming. The days are getting longer. And now is the time to initiate change. Now is the time to set things in motion. Deprivation is a good way to bring an edge to existence and sharpen awareness.
Maya and I have decided to give up sweets. She’s giving up candy. I’m giving up sugar altogether. And we decided that, whenever we crave the sugar or candy we are going to take that time, like the chiming of a meditation gong, to bring awareness to our breath, think about others and initiate gratitude.
Today is Ash Wednesday. Ashes to ashes. It’s also the day I am going out with my friends to say goodbye to my friends boobs. They have been trying to kill her, so we are celebrating their removal and her future health. It’s painful, the loss that’s coming. And her battle is a reminder that life is a terminal state. We don’t get out of it alive. Today is the day we have.
I’d like to say I’m going into this day with a centered, clear-eyed focus. But I’m not. I’m tired. My head hurts, and I’m grumpy. Fortunately, I’m going to crave sugar. It’s going to give me many opportunities to practice letting go. I’m going to be totally aware today. I’m going to just be filled with all kinds of gratitude. Well, there’s going to be a sharp edge to my day anyway.
The word Lent comes from the Old English lencten which meant Spring and the Western Germanic langa-tinaz which meant “long days.” So, here’s hoping that my cold, hard attitude will soften in these long days and grow tiny green shoots of joy.
Jesus was giving up his life at the end of his forty days of deprivation. He struggled with letting it go. No one wants to take on the difficulties life brings. We rage against them. But in the end Jesus offered a eukharistia, a thanksgiving. He was thankful.
I am raging against the struggles of those around me. I am raging against the terminality of life. I am raging against my own ineptitude. But I am hoping that this 40 day period will bring me one step closer to eukharistia. I am hoping that the vacuum created by deprivation will leave room to be filled up with gratitude.
I’ll start with today.