Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Show of Hands

So, who does Lent?

I grew up Southern Baptist and I don't know if it was that or my particular church or the area I lived in, but I had no idea that Lent existed until I went to college. I went to a small midwestern Mennonite school and everyone there did Lent. Religiously. (See what I did there? Oh, not funny... Moving on.)

In any case, most of the Lenten sacrifices were what you would imagine college kids to give up: chocolate, coffee, peanut butter (okay, that one's weird). I participated most year, even though I didn't do the whole ashy cross thing. I never understood if you had to do one to do the other, but I just did my own thing.

I'm pretty sure that one year I gave up caffeine and nearly chewed off my own arm. I had limited success with Lent and like a yo-yo dieter, I usually gave up after my first catastrophic failure.

Then, I moved back to the South and didn't do Lent for a few years, in fact, was only vaguely aware that it was that time. Actually, what Lent typically signals to me is that it's time to do some serious Easter shopping. We require dresses, hats, tights and shoes and depending on the ensemble, perhaps a nice white cardi and I'm still trying to talk those girls into gloves. Then, there's always the Easter Bunny. He has to shop, too.

Last year, I joined in an online Lent discussion and decided to give up anger. It wasn't that I expected to not get angry at all for that vast expanse of time, but that I tried really hard, harder than normal, to control my Scarlet O'Hara temper. Perhaps it would be better to say that I gave up rage, but that doesn't sound very ladylike.

In any case, I did pretty well with it. If I remember correctly, I really only went completely off the handle a couple of times. I thought about doing that again, because I've clearly fallen right back into my old habits, but since I spent the better part of the morning furious with my husband, I thought perhaps next year.

Yesterday, I heard someone say they were giving up stress for Lent and that sounds good, but my self-control is not nearly that good. I also considered giving up yelling (trust me, my grandma can take people out with her whisper voice and I could probably channel that), worrying, fast food and caffeine (again).

But here it is, Ash Wednesday, and I still haven't settled on anything yet. What I want in my life is more peace, more acceptance, more zen. I used to be zen, you know. Then I turned into a control freak worrywart. I still wonder if I can get it back and what I would need to do to get there. I think that's what I'll do for Lent. I will try to give up all the things between me and zen, between me and peace. I'm pretty sure I won't get all the way back between now and Easter, especially if my girls forego the gloves again, but I'll try all the same.

What about you? What are you giving up for Lent?


Suze said...

Isn't the point of Lent giving up some luxury or material item or indulgence? I don't really get how anger and stress fit into that. Not that lessening one's anger/stress is a bad thing, understand...

That said, I don't do lent and I probably never will. Just not my thang :)

Jessi said...

I always understood the point of Lent to be giving up something you treasure to focus on living more like Christ. And while I don't exactly "treasure" my anger or my worry, I treasure the sense of self-reliance and the attitude and the control that lead there.

I know it's not a traditional interpretation, but for me it's about taking time out to focus on my faith. Giving that stuff up for me is way harder than giving up chocolate or wine or even caffeine.

Joni said...

Bummer! I wrote a big long comment on this post yesterday, but it seems to not have posted! Geez. It was really good, too! ;) Since apparently my verbose views on the subject weren't meant to be, I'll just say that my background/take on Lent is VERY similar to yours, Jessi. This is the first year that I'm genuinely trying to celebrate the season, and I'm giving up control. It's still kind of abstract for me too, but what I'm trying to focus on is daily bowing before the Lord - mentally and physically.

Here's a blog that I read yesterday about why to celebrate Lent and why it's ok that often we fail at what we were trying to give up. Love it.

Jessi said...

Joni - I got notice of your comment, but it didn't seem to appear here - weird.