Lent

Lent is sort of a new thing for me.  I guess it was too Catholic of an exercise for my church to follow as I was growing up.  The practice was even looked down upon, I think.  After all, those same people who gave up their morning smoke break or their evening Bud Light were the same hypocrites who spent Fat Tuesday chasing their nicotine rush with bottle upon bottle of beer.  Besides, Lent was too spiritually and liturgically scripted and ritualistic.  It couldn’t really be from the heart.  I mean, they shouldn’t be smoking or drinking in the first place, right? 

And then last year, Paul suggested that we give up something for Lent. 

The truth is, I didn’t want to give anything up.  And what would I give up, anyway?  I wasn’t smoking or drinking (I was pregnant, after all), and I had a terrible time thinking of something to give up that didn’t include an ulterior motive on my part.  My first thought was to give up sugar, but my subsequent thought was not how depriving my sweet tooth would bring me closer to God but how many pounds I might lose on this 40-day venture.  I considered giving up my daily Diet Coke/Diet Dr. Pepper, but did you know that drinking even one can of diet soda a day increases your chance of being overweight by 41%?  I knew that, and that’s what I would have been meditating on for 40 days.  I was stuck. 

One Saturday night after Paul’s message, however, I fell asleep pondering what I could give up.  And in the middle of the night, I woke up, and I knew.  I really knew.  I woke up with this sudden, deep knowing that I was to wake up early every morning and spend some time before God being silent.  Just me and Him.  I was to sit quietly and be and listen.  I felt such peace as I drifted off to sleep.

And then I woke up the next morning.  I burrowed my sleepy self deeper into my cozy, warm blankets, and decided that God would have never asked me to give up sleep, of all things, to grow closer to him.  The night before had been some sort of pregnancy-induced hallucination.  Maybe next year. 

It’s next year.  And it’s funny, once I noticed how the season of Lent was fast approaching, how I started dodging God. 

I know I could spend this time while Jack is sleeping talking to you, God, but I just got this new iPod, you know, and I want to listen to some music. We’ll catch up later. 

I would look at the calendar, see the words Ash Wednesday, and feel an inner tug.

God, I would whine, I’m so tired.  I have a baby who still doesn’t sleep through the night very often.  You don’t really want me to wake up early, do you?  It might seriously hinder my ability to be a good mom, and I know you want me to be a good mom.  It’s an important job!  I don’t do it very well when I’m sleep-deprived.

And then I made the mistake of telling Matt about what I thought God was telling me to do for Lent.  And then he had the nerve to ask me about it and to offer to encourage me to follow through.  The nerve.  Really.  How dare he? 

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday.  I wanted to go to our church’s service (at a mortuary, no less!), but Matt got home late, my tofu stir-fry wasn’t stir-frying fast enough, and Jack was fussy and demanding to be held every second.  Besides, I hadn’t gotten up early yesterday morning, and I didn’t want to be reminded of my failure. 

Last night, though, before I drifted off to sleep I asked God to help me get up in the morning.  My alarm was set for 5:00.  At 4:58 Jack woke up hungry.  He ate, fell back asleep, and I trudged downstairs.  I didn’t really want to spend those moments with God, but I did.  It was a little different than I expected.  I perched myself in my rocking chair and carefully placed my cup of coffee close by in case I started to drift off.  I just sat there.  I felt kind of stupid.  Was I supposed to say something?  It’s not like I expected God to appear to me in a vision, but I thought He might at least say something appreciative of the fact that it was terribly early in the morning and I was sacrificing one of my most precious possessions–sleep–to spend some time with Him.  I didn’t know what to do.  Was I really supposed to be silent?  I decided that some conversation was OK, as long as I didn’t start into a litany of requests, demands, and complaints.  I thought I’d start by discussing with Him my avoidance tactics of late, just in case he hadn’t noticed.  I got the distinct impression that he had noticed, that he understood why, and that he wasn’t all that mad at me.  After discussing our intimacy issues, I tried silence again for awhile.  Then I moved on to politics.

So, God, what do you think about Obama?  I know everyone thinks you’re a Republican and all, but from what I’ve been reading in the Bible lately I just can’t see how you would agree with tax cuts for the rich.  I was just reading in Zechariah yesterday your prescription for life: “Treat one another justly.  Love your neighbors.  Be compassionate with each other.  Don’t take advantage of widows, orphans, visitors, and the poor.”  Are you a closet Democrat?  If so, would you just tell those damn Republicans to….
Oops.  Obviously starting on a political discussion did not fit in with the criteria to be still, to be silent, and to listen. 
I tried again. 

It was hard.  I’m really opinionated, apparently, and it seems I have this burning need to tell God just what I need/want and just how to run things and just how the current aspects of my life that aren’t working too well could be altered with just a wee bit of divine intervention of his part. 

It’s going to be a long 40 days–for both God and me. 

[Check out the absolutely beautiful Lent-zine Melanie created for our church this year.  You, Melanie, are amazing!  I can’t wait to pick up my copy!]

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8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by matt on February 8, 2008 at 7:56 am

    excellent! yeah! way to go #84!!! You make god, and me, and even Obama proud. ( I’m sure obama didn’t mind your attempt to manipulate the creator of the entire universe to vote for him. )

    some days are noisier than others, so don’t expect perfect ___________ (enter perfect expectation).

    You are a gem.

    Reply

  2. Posted by frenchgirl on February 10, 2008 at 7:28 am

    i love it. i think God is honored when we bring our real selves to him. after all, he knows us anyway, right?

    Reply

  3. Posted by Freestyle Road Trip on February 10, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    I really liked what Paul said Sunday night about Jesus’ time in the desert actually preparing him for his confrontation with Satan. I had never thought about it that way before. His fast actually strengthened him and prepared him for what was to come. It gave him the stamina to meet the task ahead.

    In April I am doing something that I believe God has planted within me, that he has been leading me towards for years, that he is preparing me for. And this focus on Lent this year is part of that preparation. I am giving up a thing that will help prepare me for April 13. It will make me stronger. It will make me ready for the fight. God led me to it. And I love that.

    But I broke my fast today, as Paul suggested, as a reminder that I cannot do it on my own. I have to life each day in confidence that God will provide for me for that day. I love that part of Lent too.

    My denomination (I mistakenly typed “demon-ination” first. How ironic.) of indoctrination did not focus on Lent at all either. Zilch. Zero. My only exposure was a brief 2.5 years attending a Catholic high school for boys (which I loved by the way). I participated in Lent during those years on my own, without my parents knowledge. I wiped the ashes off my forehead before I got home from school. So this year has been sort of nostalgic for me. But it occurred to me today why my Nazarene friends do not celebrate Lent. I believe it is because Nazarenes believe that they can become “entirely sanctified” which is basically a state where one lives beyond sin and is sinless. Well you can’t very well observe something like Lent where we acknowledge our brokenness and dependence on God when you believe that you are sinless.

    One last thing. I have never voted democrat. I have always towed the republican line somewhat believing that you can’t be a Christian and a democrat. Well I see that this is a bunch of junk now. I will vote for Obama if he is up against McCain or Huckabee. If it is Hillary, I just don’t trust her so I don’t yet know what I will do. Thanks for being vocal on the political side of things.

    Sorry to be so long.

    Reply

  4. Posted by mamajenny on February 11, 2008 at 8:45 am

    This is great. I love hearing you describe your thought process through all this. I imagine this will be a great experience for you.

    Reply

  5. i’ve had some of the same thoughts. i’m still struggling with whatever it is i’m supposed to give up. guess that’s indicative of my problem these days…not enough time to think? oh duh! i’m teetering between two things and i keep wondering why it will help my focus/if it will do greater damage, etc. guess i’ll try being silent tomorrow and see what comes up.

    the last time i was silent, i figured out why God wanted me to be silent. i’ll pray the same goes for you.

    i’m glad you are blessed by the ‘Zine. take extra copies next week if you know anyone else who would like one.

    Reply

  6. […] anything, I should give up for Lent.  You can read my lofty and poetic Lenten goals from last year here.  And then to read about my ultimate Lenten failure click here (and I would highly, highly […]

    Reply

  7. […] Catholics practiced, if you want the honest truth (I talked about this a little bit two years ago here).  While perhaps it might be true that Catholics focus too much on the image of Jesus on the cross […]

    Reply

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