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Archive for March, 2011

Lent 2011

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday. 

For those of you who don’t follow the Liturgical year, Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, the forty day period of fasting before Easter Sunday.  While Lent is most definitely a Catholic tradition, many Protestants observe it as well.  In an on-again, off-again sort of way, I am one of those.

I made the last-minute decision this year that I was going to observe Lent.  It was last minute because I didn’t have any idea when it started until the Saturday before, when I finally got around to looking it up.  So in the few days I had to think about it, in between work and Bible study and cleaning and more work and more Bible study, I decided I was going to give up sleeping in for Lent.

Sleep and I have a very tumultuous relationship, mostly because I am fully capable of sleeping ten hours a night, and have neither the time nor the desire to do so.  However, I never seem to remember these facts at 7:30 am when my alarm goes off.  Normally I hit snooze one or two or seventeen more times, until my alarm eventually gives up and turns itself off.  When I do get up, what follows is the most melodramatic five minutes of my day.  “I’m sooooooo tired!  Why do I have to get up this early?  It’s soooooooooo unfair!  I’m going to diiiiieeeee!”  I briefly contemplate quitting my job so that I can go back to sleep, because clearly that’s the best solution.  Then I brush my teeth, feed the cats, turn the coffee pot on.  By the time the coffee has finished brewing, I’m wide awake and glad I didn’t give in.  Mornings like that are great, they just don’t happen often enough.  So now I’m going to use Lent to force myself to get up.

Even those of you who aren’t familiar with Lent might catch a hint of wrong motive in the statement above.  Let me explain.  Despite my lifelong relationship with the season of Lent, I didn’t grow up in churches that practiced it.  My childhood church was non-denominational and charismatic, and Liturgy isn’t high on the list of priorities in a place like that.  We were lucky if we even got an Easter-themed sermon on Easter. (For the longest time, I thought I must have picked up the idea of Lent from my mom, who grew up Catholic.  Then I came home from college during Lent the year that I gave up coffee, and she laughed at me and told me we weren’t Catholic and brewed a big pot of Starbucks blend.)  But I did grow up in churches that practiced fasting.  You fast to clear the distractions out of your life so that you can hear God speaking.  You fast from something so that you can take the time you normally spend on that activity and spend it with God instead.  You don’t “fast” without seeking God.  That’s called a diet.  (And you don’t “fast” broccoli either – are you listening, 9-year-old self?)

 From the Catholic mindset, Lent is a time of penance, reflection, and fasting.  The penance part isn’t really part of my theology (although it would be an interesting study…), and the reflection part comes naturally to us internal processors.  So for me, Lent is really a time of corporate fasting.  And that, I can do.  I’ve been taught that you should fast the thing that’s hardest to give up.  In my case, it always comes down to sleep or coffee.  This year, it’s sleep.  Coffee isn’t keeping me from spending time with God.  Sleeping in is.

P.S. I realize that my observations on Lent are currently somewhat shallow, to which I will say: I’m not finished.  This is a blog, not a dissertation(I keep trying to remind myself).  And a season of reflection should call for…more reflection.  Right?

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