I have a lot of friends who are part of formal liturgical traditions that practice Lent. Even in some of the churches in the Yearly Meeting I am a part of there are discussions of Lent, and some even celebrate it to one degree or another. Before we continue here is a brief description of Lent given by Christine Sine on the GodSpace blog.
Lent is a 40 day period before Easter that commemorates the time Jesus spent in the wilderness. In the early church this was a time of preparation for those about to be baptized. Today it is more often regarded as a season of soul searching and repentance for all Christians when we prepare for the joy and celebration of Easter by giving ourselves an annual spiritual check up. It begins with Ash Wednesday and ends at sundown on Holy Thursday. (The Thursday before Easter) If you are a good mathematician you probably realize that there are more than 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Holy Thursday. That is because early Christians never fasted on Sundays. They are excluded from the days of Lent because they are always celebrations of Christ’s resurrection.
I am quite frequently invited to participate in Lenten observances or reflections, and this blog post is my attempt to explain why I struggle with how to participate in this conversation, not only as a Quaker, but as the person God created me to be.
Introspection is an ongoing process that is an integral part of a close relationship. My wife and I regularly discuss how things are going in our marriage relationship; we don’t just talk about how things are for a brief season every year. In the same way my relationship with God has times of introspection that occur on a regular basis in order for us to hear how we each perceive the other and ourselves to be doing in the relationship. These times are sometimes daily and sometimes weekly, but that is about as long as I can go without holding my life in the light of the Holy Spirit.
When I get formal and address things in a formal manner that is my way of putting distance between me and others, including God. This is definitely not a universal thing and I realize it, but this is the way my mind operates. This desire for intimacy in my daily walk is one of the main reasons that the Quaker church has been so helpful for my journey with God.
I am a Myers-Briggs type ESFP. My focus is on the immediate and I desire to live fully into the now. If there is cause to celebrate I am not going to care about what the calendar says, I am going to throw a party. If there is cause to grieve, I will mourn with my whole heart even if the calendar says it is party time. Life never has been neat enough for me to be able to assign times of mourning or rejoicing however, there always seems to be sorrow alongside the joy and joy alongside the sorrow. In many ways it has become impossible for me to separate the two, every day is Lent and Easter. I wait for Christ to come and redeem me and Christ has already come. I feel the death embodied in my brokenness and I am resurrected every day.
In the liturgical traditions a majority of the year (33-34 weeks) is spent in what is called “Ordinary Time”, and this is where I live. I have a deep love and appreciation for the insights and openings that come from the faithful practices of mundane life. From preparing meals and washing dishes to the daily “Dear God time” prayers as I tuck my daughter in to bed I find my connection to God and life deepen. As I fold the warm clothes after pulling them out of the drier and drape towels over my daughter’s head or have a “sock fight” in which we throw socks at each other I feel the love and presence of God. I occasionally wake up as tired as when I went to bed, and on most days I look in the mirror and wonder if I am ever going to be able to lose the weight. When the bumps, bruises, fears and crises of everyday life come, those are ministers of the ordinary as well, drawing me daily into the arms of the Spirit who I cling to as a Mama. She wraps her arms around me and daily mourns my deepest wounds with sighs that reach the deepest, darkest corners of my being, bringing light and healing.
May your Lenten season be blessed and may you find Christ in the ordinary.