Doing Lent together? Do you have a sense of this? Most of us go through Lent in a private way. Perhaps that’s not the best way.
If you’ll join me in our Lenten journey together, I must tell you I’ve already failed my Lenten practice and it’s only the first week.
I gave up chocolate. I rationalized I could have it on Sundays. A few years ago, someone introduced me to the “free Sundays” concept to Lenten fasting and penitence. I thought it sounded like a terrible idea. Then I gave up my judgmental attitude of I’m-holier-than-thou since I never “used” Sunday like that.
What do you think of taking Sunday “off” from whatever your Lenten practice is?
Lent 2020, Week 1
Lent started strong. Until the Friday after Ash Wednesday. Day three. My husband and I visited my daughter’s family in Georgia for the first birthday of her youngest son. As we headed to bed, Tess whispered in my ear, “There’s a little something for you, mostly you—(meaning her father wouldn’t like it much)—on your bed.”
Last time we visited, she left three chocolate Necco Wafers packages for me. Yum! Instant flashback to my childhood; only then, we couldn’t get just chocolate. I had to eat my way through a variety pack avoiding the white “hot” ones and hoping to get more than two chocolate ones.
This time, it was an entire bag of Dove milk chocolates wrapped in pink foil, left over from Valentine’s Day. I’d already consumed a bag back home that I purchased at 50% off the day after Valentine’s Day. There are days when they are impossible to resist, hence my offering them up for Lent.
Oh how we rationalize
They were a love gift, I rationalized. I didn’t purchase them. My daughter did, so I had no control ofver them being there on my bedside table. She bought them to make me happy. The irrational side of my brain swatted the tiny voice of conscience that told me I could stash them in my suitcase and save them for Easter. The evil little minion Satan assigned to me for chocolate duty this Lent suggested it would be good to show her my gratitude by eating a few.
In my commitment to abstinence from chocolate, I offered my husband one.
By Sunday, the bag was empty. Tiny pink folded foil squares clumped on the table like plaque in a heart vein.
On Monday, I went back to being good. By Tuesday, I’d bought chocolate covered ice cream bars and by midnight, had eaten two. The little evil minion helped me rationalize that I’d already broken the chocolate barrier, so it was no big deal. Besides, there’s hardly any chocolate on them.
Why I gave up abstaining
This is why I gave up abstaining from things years ago. I’m not very good at it. Perhaps facing my failure is part of the abstinence practice, restoring my humility in the face of my weakness. Perhaps not.
Immediately, I reconsidered switching my Lenten practice to actively doing something else instead of giving something up. The giving up part seemed to allow Satan to put a honing beacon on me.
The Holy Spirit gave me a little pat on the head, the way a parent does when an infant stumbles while trying to learn to walk. I see you, He seemed to nod with a beam of love. Try again.
Lent 2020, Week 2
So I’m trying again. And I’m glad you’re with me doing Lent together.
There is power in community. My spirit relaxes after confessing my failure to you, sensing I am not alone in falling down. Perhaps we’ve lost the meaning of Lent because we’ve made it so private, or because it’s become “a personal renewal project.”
Could it be that journeying in community helps us understand the universality of the fallen nature of man? Already I feel the releasing of harsh judgment of myself in your company.
There is something in us, as storytellers and as listeners to stories, that demands the redemptive act, that demands that what falls at least be offered the chance to be restored.
Doing Lent together helps us find commonality and empathy for one another. I’m so used to being strong and holding myself as an exampe of positive living. Admitting my failures and confessing sins are lessons in humility. Good lessons. Healthy lessons. Lessons that bring us closer to God.
“The Lenten practices of most Christians are private and personal,” writes Father Bryan Massingale, a professor of theological and social ethics at Fordham University in New York. “We often don’t sense we are doing Lent together” (“Recover Lent,” The Examined Life, U.S. Catholic March 2020, page 10).
“Getting old isn’t for sissies,” Betty White famously said. I can attest to that as I approach the second half of my sixth decade, although I’ve got nothing to complain about.
Getting through Lent isn’t for sissies.
Getting through Lent isn’t for sissies either.
If you like what you’re getting out of life and your spiritual walk, then keep doing what you’re doing. If you don’t, then something has to change.
Change is challenging. We can do it. Together.
My friend Dr. Chacko wrote a post worth reading on change and the spiritual journey. Let’s get up from our self-pity,
lack of energy,
low sense of worth,
lack of commitment,
Let us thank God for exactly where we are at the moment. Trust He’s using everything for our good.
1 Thessalonians 5:18
We can do this Lent. Together.