It's amazing, it feels like it was just Christmas and yet Lent is here. Yesterday, we hosted a dinner for friends and celebrated and now, it's time for the change of pace. Lent is upon us.
Do you mark Lent? I have done many years of giving things up which, at the time, seemed like a good thing to do. I'd have to say that my thinking has changed, though. For me, I have come to the conclusion that giving up chocolate or iced caps or t.v. or Facebook or any of the other things I have attempted to give up hasn't really done anything to bring me closer to God or to lead me to more of an attitude of repentance. That leaves me with a question - how do I mark the season of Lent?
I've been brooding over it for several days. Today, driving home, I heard on CBC a promo for someone who was putting forward something to do with "40 Days of Good Deeds." It seemed like a good idea for about five minutes but the more I pondered it, the more I wondered how it would be connected to Lent (and I have to say, I did not listen to the interview so I have no opinion on what this individual or organization has in mind). As a Christian, does paying for the car in line behind me at the drive through or dropping off some food to a friend really bring me closer to God? I don't in any way say that little kindnesses aren't good things but really, shouldn't we, as Christians, be looking to serve others all the time? Shouldn't we be doing these things 365 days a year and in situations that require more of us?
It's funny, I have had several Christian friends criticize the public school system for the depth to which we explore the beliefs of other faiths. For me, these encounters seem to bring me closer to my own faith, rather than to draw me away. Recently, I had been teaching my class about Ramadan and the fact that Muslims aim to:
-read the Koran more often and in greater depth
-repent from their sins
-care for those who are in need (not just the fellow middle class driver in line behind me at Tim's or Starbucks)
-endure some discomfort to bring one back to what one's relationship to God means
This actually sounds better to me than what I was planning so this is what I plan to do. I have been praying more (and loving Richard Foster's Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home, which is the incourage: Bloom book club selection right now - it's not too late to join) and striving to keep morning and evening prayers based on Common Prayer: A Litury for Ordinary Radicals. I think that will be my focus for Lent - much prayer, much reflection and confession, looking for opportunities to help those who need and, most of all, not shying away from situations when they are uncomfortable. It feels right to me and it would be wonderful, I think, to honour Easter with the sense that I have truly tried to be honest with myself and, more importantly, with my God.
As always, our ministers were brilliant. Last year, at our Ash Wednesday service, we were each given a nail to carry for the duration of Lent. On Good Friday, we hammered that nail into the cross, which was so symbolic. This year, we all chose a rock to carry, a symbol of the weight that we carry of our sins and at Easter, the rock being rolled away and our weight being lifted. What a powerful symbol and one that I hope will remind me of my purpose for these next 40 days.