Monday, March 10, 2014

A Gentle Lent

Okay, so I know Lent started last week, but I'm just now getting around to writing about my resolutions.

I gotta be honest here and just say it...I hate Lent. 


I didn't grow up with Lent.  I grew up Protestant/Calvinist, and there was tons of self-loathing year-round, but no Lenten resolutions.  We didn't fast, we didn't tithe, we didn't give alms.  That was all too "legalistic" and Lent was too close to that man-made Catholicism.

Fast forward a few decades, and here I am, a Catholic, trying to sort out Lent.  I've been Catholic for a few years now, and honestly, I feel like I'm just barely grasping what Lent is, what self-sacrifice is and what it is NOT, and what it means to offer things up.  I can't just white-wash my Protestant tendencies and go on a 40-day self-loathing binge.  That would actually be far too easy, and that is not what God or Lent is calling me to.     

It is really really hard for me to do Lent.  I want to fix all my problems in 40 days with fasting from everything, praying for everyone, building all new habits.  And, life just doesn't work like that.  I can't fast from eating meals due to health concerns (I can fast from delicacies, or certain foods, but not skip meals, doctor's orders.)  So, I'm left to my own creative devices for Lent.  In the past, I've given up television, Facebook, swearing, coffee creamer, salt, and other "creative" things.

This year, I'm just so weary.  Weary of the self-hatred.  Weary of hating Lent.  Weary of not really knowing how to fast or offer things up or be authentically Catholic.  I don't live like a monk, but I don't feel like there's much more I can do without.  So, what kept coming to mind this year was taking something on, not giving stuff up.  And, also, taking stuff on in a disciplined, yet kind, way.  Establishing a habit.  "Leaning in" to prayer or daily mass.  No beating myself up.  No wildly unrealistic expectations.   No self-loathing.  God is gentle.  Lent should be a gentle reminder. 

Here's what I've come up with:

This year, I'm going to try washing my dishes and making my bed every day.  (makes a big difference in a studio apartment without a dishwasher)

This year, I'm going to try to attend mass once during the week, in addition to Sunday mass.  (emphasis on *try* and emphasis on *once* per week, not every single day)

This year, I'm going to try to pray with more intention.  I'm going to pray during my commute (got a prayer CD to use), I'm going to offer my intentions as I pray.  The structure of formatted prayers, such as the rosary, is a huge help to my wandering mind as I pray.

This year, I'm going to try to go through my drawers and doors and closets and get rid of excess.  Not go crazy, but go one drawer or area at a time and make sure I am being a good steward and not wasteful of what I have.

This year, I'm going to try to give up meat on Fridays for Lent.  I already messed up last week on Friday, but I did manage to go without meat on Ash Wednesday.  I have to be honest, it was hard, but definitely do-able.

This year, I'm going to try to go to confession once a month (already a resolution from my birthday).  I've already been once this Lent.  It is a gentle reminder that God is mercy.  He desires to heal us from our sins, not beat us up.  If I keep this in mind, I can do Lent.

This year, I'm going to try to participate in Lenten practices that are new to me.  Last week, I went to Stations of the Cross for the first time.  

Maybe I don't hate Lent after all.  Maybe I just need to learn how to really practice it.  Maybe I only hated my warped perception of Lent.   

Thanks, EE, for the reminder and link up.

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