Ah. ‘Tis the prime season of self-deprivation and atonement by the consumption of $2 filet-o-fish sandwiches and all you can eat seafood buffets. Somehow, I don’t think this is the way the church founders intended it, although who can argue with a walleye dinner at your local parish?
It is typical during Lent to make some sort of personal sacrifice in and work on our spirituality that the over-commercialized Christmas season has stripped from us like asbestos from the chapel ceiling. I actually enjoy this concept. An opportunity for self and spiritual improvement. Typically, this results in some mundane offering: “I’m swearing off chocolate….except in caffinated liquid form” or “I’m going to stop drinking…except for white wine on all the even dated Tuesdays until Easter. Then I’ll switch to red on all Wednesdays”. On the surface these seem cliche and a fruitless as that New Years resolution and $100USD/month gym membership you bought in the spirit of being “bathing suit” ready for summer, and are probably about as well kept in many instances.
So what good is this season if it doesn’t result in permanent change? I think that it is useful in that making the resolutions we bring to the front of our minds our intrinsic defects. The things that keep us from excelling in life, in service and in who we want to be. These then hint at where our spirit, our soul is lacking and where our pain comes from. The simplest thing might be to give up chocolate, but perhaps that’s a statement of disliking one’s own image. In that case, it will take a little more than avoiding confections to fix the issue at hand and it becomes a spiritual issue of doing the easy, minimal thing or taking the time, the effort, the pain to overhaul the spirit.
There’s a lot I see wrong with myself. I’m overweight, my emotions are enough to cause a weak necked person whiplash, resentments are as much a drug for me as lust and sex ever were, I lack confidence, yet I have a sizable ego. I’m afraid more of the time than I probably realize. Obviously, I’ve sucked at monogamy. So what do I give up for Lent? Drop added sugar intake to help me lose weight? Commit to meditation to help keep me emotionally stable? Find ways to go against my nature to be resentful? Give up my smartphone so I’m not compulsively checking my email? all of the above? I think this season I need to work on where I’m struggling the most, with resentments. The reality is no externals are controlling my resentments. The only way forward is to be aware of my actions, thoughts and the feelings that follow. I can only ask what do I do or where am I wrong that causes my resentful feelings. When I hold to this realization that no person can make me resent, no event of fortune or misfortunate can cause me discontent without my own thought process going to work on it. It sounds like a very reasonable thing to work on.
In writing I’m realizing I’m sounding a little bitter. That is, or was, not necessarily my intent as I do like the idea of a time of atonement, reflection and personal improvement.