Lent has begun.
As far as I recall, I’ve only participated in Lent late into my faith journey. And, really, the only year I remember truly struggling is last year, when I fasted a man.
Sounds kinkier than it really was, people.
But the point was made. If asceticism is the goal, I felt ascetic. I struggled. I longed. I sighed. I regretted. I pinned. I begged God to give me strength and wisdom. Strength to walk away and wisdom to stay away. It worked in a manner of speaking, but the experience made me appreciate the act of sacrifice.
A friend recently asked what I got out of giving up things considering Yahweh doesn’t dole out points. Fair question. I said that it lends one spiritual strength and discipline. But in reality, it’s the combination of meditating on the spiritual and giving up the physical that lends us strength and fortifies discipline.
It’s been my experience that the hardest thing during Lent (or any season of spiritual enlightenment) is actually tapping into that spiritual aspect. Or rather, setting time aside for my Love and digging deep into our relationship. Since humans are hopelessly prone to ritual and creatures of habit, we often — consciously or unconsciously — substitute the physical/emotional/mental with the spiritual, assuming it’s the same thing, the same animal. Or thinking that they equate. We’re thinking or acting as if…
“I’m not eating red meat, so I’m good” or…
“Since I’m not on Facebook for 47 days, I don’t really need to pray” or…
“I’ve given 15% tithe! No need to feed that homeless person over there…”
In other words, it’s just as easy, if not easier, to become more religious during a religious holy period, when the point of the holy day is to become more holy and grow closer to your Creator.
And I don’t blame us. The path we’ve chosen is fraught with difficulties and paradoxes, and just when we think we’ve understood, another curve ball!
This Lenten Season, I’ve made a list of YESes and NOs. I’m saying YES to actions that will help me strengthen my relationships with Abba and people around me. I’m saying NO to things that preoccupy my mind. I’m giving up some idle things that I take for granted, but I also want to replace that wasted time with meaningful and righteous actions. I’m hoping to become more aware of how I budget my time, the words that I say, and the thoughts that I have.
It’s a fine line to not fall into religiosity when you’re seeking holiness, but despite what some people think or what is in my holy book (must write about that later!), my god is a god of mercy and love, and He knows, like no other god, the struggles we go through. He sees me and rejoices over me.
It’s a work in progress, as it must be.