Lent is not so much a time set apart from our normal lives as a time to re-connect with life as we might like it to be.
The key to Lent is the pursuit of simplicity; the pruning away of the things we thought important, but have turned out to be burdens. Rather than “adding on” we should be “re-ordering.” Perhaps you have taken on so many activities you are drowning in obligations. Perhaps you are working so hard you have forgotten how to have fun. Perhaps you no longer remember why you chose the profession you have. Perhaps you are so busy you do not even have time to enjoy relationships. Perhaps you are so frustrated or angry you have lost your capacity to forgive. In other words – has your life been taken over by forces that threaten your godliness, your identity, and your love?
Fasting, consciously denying oneself a food for a set period of time, is an ancient and outward, expression for the need to live free of these things that have the capacity to hold us captive. But fasting can come in many forms. Any act which sets us free from unnecessary or negative influences is an act that has the capacity to open to us to God’s intention for out lives. We might drive more slowly, work fewer hours, limit the number of activities in which we are involved, take time to dream, be more patient with coworkers, kinder to store clerks, pray more regularly, visit an elderly relative or friend, be honest in all our dealings, slow down, extend forgiveness to another, do a favor for a neighbor, volunteer at church, count blessings.
Part of that process is to name the truth about our lives. We begin with the Great Litany, which sets us free to acknowledge we are not in charge, life is fragile, bad things can and do happen, and we are totally dependent on the love and grace of God to get us through. It’s a kind of spiritual bucket of cold water poured vigorously over our all-too-human illusions about self and reality.
But, like all good cold showers, we emerge invigorated. There is tremendous freedom in letting go of what is not ours to manage, of acknowledging our limitations, and putting things into the hands of the God who is without limitation and to whom all things belong. If Lent is about simplifying our lives a first step has to be the removal of things we can do nothing about. Recognizing what is ours to do and what is God’s is a big step in that direction.
Keep a holy and simple Lent.
The Rev. Susan N. Eaves