Two years ago, Lent was … well, a big part of my life that year.
Complicated and twisted, much like the relationship it was a part of, but a big part of my life at the time, also like that relationship.
I’d never really paid attention to Lent before, but did that year, and it’s kind of stayed with me.
Last year, I did give something up for Lent. With varying degrees of success, both in terms of actually sticking with it, and in terms of actually getting any benefit from it.
This year, I’ve been kind of meditating on what, if anything I should do for Lent.
This morning, I read a great article on “My spiritual discipline of not giving up something for Lent” that has an interesting discussion on Lent and what it means and what it’s for and so forth.
I’m not giving something up for Lent this year.
I’m taking something on for Lent.
I’m not Catholic. I have no proscribed rules for Lent. If I choose to do something, it’s not because I’m trying to take on someone else’s rituals or beliefs, so it’s OK if I’m doing it wrong. I’m not doing their thing wrong. I’m doing my thing right.
And this year, the thing that sticks out to me the most about Lent is the contemplative discipline aspect of it. Ideally, the awareness of the absence of what you’re giving up should remind you of why you’ve given that thing up. If you give up chocolate, when you have a desire for it, you have to consciously choose to do without, and that conscious choice should cause a conscious reminder of why you’re doing it, and that should point you back toward the cross. Less of chocolate, more of Him.
I’m choosing to do that this year not through absence, but through presence. For a decent period of time, I had a necklace and a bracelet that I wore; the necklace with a cross, the bracelet with an anglecized version of ΙΧΘΥΣ. I put them on as reminders to myself. It wasn’t intentional, but it evolved nicely into fitting into a song that I liked with lyrics taken from Song of Solomon — “I’ll set You as a seal upon my heart / As a seal upon my arm.”
To be perfectly honest, as I gained weight late last year, I reached the point where I felt too big to wear them. I doubt if that was really true, it was just me letting negativity get the better of me.
But for Lent, I’m going to start wearing them again, as a tool for that contemplative discipline. I put them on in the morning, and think about why. I see or feel them during the day, and think about why.
Maybe it’s not pure to the point of Lent, but hopefully it honors the spirit well enough.