This is the first time in my LIFE that I've gotten on board with Lent. In my experience, Easter has always been about getting up before sunrise, the new Easter dresses, the daffodils, the Easter eggs, and the story of resurrection. I love all of it. But by growing up Mennonite, I somehow missed the entire idea of giving up something for forty days....or throwing ash on my forehead. It often took me a few weeks to figure out why the cafeteria at school started serving the square fish sandwiches every Friday. (I'm still trying to figure out what fish I need to catch for that elusive perfect square of flaky goodness.)
So I present to you: LENT 2013.
February 11th: Everyone goes around the table at lunch and asks what each person is giving up for lent. The circle finally gets to me and I stumble around, unable to answer how I could have be raised in a Christian home, but have never observed Lent. It isn't even on my radar that it begins in two days. All night long and the next day I think about what this meant.
February 13th (Ash Wednesday): I devise a plan. It'll be my first ever sacrificial Lent event and I can't wait to follow through with it. My plan is so clever. Instead of giving something up I have decided to dedicate 40 minutes every day, rain or shine, to walking and praying. I suddenly feel like a genius...a spiritual genius.
February 20th: I continue to be so proud of myself. I haven't missed a day, but I also haven't felt as though this has been any sort of sacrifice. I'm getting to talk to God about things I haven't had "time" to bring up before, and it feels splendid. And the weather can't be beat. Never have I felt so lucky to have someone to talk to - someone that has an obligation to listen...and to take it to heart.
February 29th: The weather has turned. What was once so easy has become hard. I begin to feel the true sacrifice of time this experiment is becoming. There are days when I feel like I can't possibly find time in that day to walk, or the weather looks like tiny spit-bullets that could pound on the top of my head and possibly impale me. Those are the days I was most proud of. I would spend the first 20 minutes with my head to the ground, walking against the wind and into the sleet. This is when I am hashing it out with God and there is no one there to interrupt. The last twenty minutes are much more relaxed and joyful. I can look up from the concrete because the rain is to my back. I finally notice the sea and the land, and I give thanks. Instead of beating against me, the wind gently nudges me from behind every day as I tackle that last difficult hill. I often spend this time contemplating the metaphors. I can't wait to blog about it all of this, and the inevitable success of my Lent season. I am so proud of the work I am doing, the sacrifice I am making.
March 7th: It's harder to think of things to pray for or about, so my prayers have turned mostly to our future, and to thanking God for what I currently have. The conversations continue, but they are laced with more questions. I begin looking up world affairs so that I have something to talk about with God when I run out of things that directly affect me and the ones I love. Although it is enlightening, it also points out how selfish I am.
March 17th: I struggle daily with myself. I have to give myself what can only be describe as a "pep talk" every day. Because of my job and my kids, scheduling becomes a bit a downer. There are so many places I'm being pulled, and I need sleep. So little sleep is in my life. It's getting to be a burden, but I can feel how this is an important part of the Lent season - the burden and struggle. It seems so small. I make a mental note that I will write about this in my blog.
March 22nd: A snowstorm hits. It's bad. I couldn't possibly have gone out in it. Jesus wouldn't have wanted me to. Nobody would survive such conditions. After dark I find out that one of the volunteers walked home in it and I instantly feel a little guilty that I couldn't sacrifice comfort for just a short amount of time. Just a little though. They were crazy.
March 23rd-24th: Still snowing. Still not going out. Guilt is starting to haunt me. Jesus died on a cross for me and I can't even get my ass out the door for a 40 minute walk. My blankets and coffee are so cozy. I. Love. Them. (but not more than Jesus.)
March 25th-28th: Now the weather is fine, but I still couldn't do it. I think endlessly about what I'm going to write about on my blog now that I'm the ultimate Lent loser. So close to Easter, and I just can't bring myself to pull on my trainers and winter coat for 40 minutes. I AM A FAILURE.
March 29th: I go for a walk and decide I can easily make up the time by just going on seven walks over the course of the next three days.
March 30th: I realize that's crazy. It suddenly occurs to me that I remember Jesus having unconditional love and forgiveness. I tell God that I've learned a valuable lesson here.
March 31st (Easter): Still trying to figure out what the valuable lesson is, I decide it is based on forgiveness and gentleness. I will be more gentle with myself. I will continue to try really hard, and to do my best, but I will also love myself and others when we fall short.
Just like Jesus would want me to.