I don’t always participate in Lent. It was never a part of my childhood, as bedtime prayer stopped being a ritual about the time I started first grade and meal time prayer was typically reserved for Christmas. We never gave anything up willingly in my house. We lived at or beyond out means at all times and we never bothered with creating traditions worth keeping.
I came to Lent as an adult, and even then only as I felt the need to test myself or used it as the catalyst for a change I had already decided on. It has never truly been a spiritual practice for me. Sacrifice has been something that I have understood intellectually for a long time, and until recently I had convinced myself that this was good enough. It wasn’t until I spent a few years with very little to give up that I realized that I could have done myself a favor by training for the possibility.
This year, it struck me that things are pretty good. Don’t get me wrong, I could still fill a screen with ways in which my life is not where I want it to be, but things are stable, even improving, and this year I came to Mardi Gras with the realization that I have things in my life, seemingly for the first time in years, that I can afford to give up without risking my health or sanity. My somewhat stuttered effort to go without my normal near-constant intake of cola has left me contemplating my other spiritual practices. I am rather disappointed in myself.
This blog, for instance, was an important effort in sorting out some of my theology and personal calling. I let it slip while preparing for a move, made a grand push during Chalica, then my personal computer broke down, and I used that as an excuse to stop writing.
My attendance at services and my involvement in my congregation has also been nearly nil. This despite having moved to a house that is only 20 minutes from the church and having the use of a car on weekends. Contrast this with my participation when I relied entirely on other people picking me up, and it seems silly that I am not there at least every-other week.
There was a time, a little more than 10 years ago, when I was a very spiritual person. There were people who treated me as a spiritual adviser. I made time for meditation and prayer. This was before I found a place in a Congregation. Now, while I am still a person with spiritual intent, I have allowed religion to soothe me. I have feasted on the hearty soup of family life and the health salad of friendship and community, and the tasty breadsticks of religion, leaving little room for the deeper spirituality that used to be the main course of my life. Now, obviously, I shouldn’t give up socializing, (in fact, like salad, I could currently stand more of it in my life), and I cannot give up family, as many great meals are made of soup alone. many weeks, though, I look back and miss the pasta course of real spiritual practice.
So this year, I am participating in Lent. I am going to reign in my cola consumption, and I am going to make time for honest spirituality. And I am going to write. This is my public declaration to recommit myself. Wish me luck, because I feel like the road is going to start off pretty rough. Drop back by soon; I’ll let you know how it is going.