Saturday, March 8, 2014

It's Okay To Keep Your Lent To Yourself

It's Lent, or so I've been told.  I don't follow the generally accepted mass Christianic belief system, so I could be wrong.  But the fact that people around me are giving up things left and right seems a good indicator that we are in the midst of the "solemn religious observance in the liturgical calendar of many Christian denominations that begins on Ash Wednesday and covers a period of approximately six weeks before Easter".  (Thanks Wikipedia!)

I wonder how many people are giving up their New Year's resolutions for Lent.  It's about that time of year when those resolutions get a little dusty and old.  Heck, if you made it to March, you've already done better than the average person.

Photo by sanctumsolitude
While I understand that there are (perhaps beautiful) symbols of penance and repentance and self-denial, the more sacred concepts might be lost on your run-of-the-mill Sunday morning Christians.  Cue the acquaintance who announced her "giving up" of sugar and sodas for Lent...because she needs to be healthier anyway...and swimsuit season is right around the corner...and she could stand to loose some weight.

Methinks she might have missed the whole point.  The practice of giving up a "vice" for Lent is meant to bring one closer to the Divine...not closer to your ideal bikini-wearing weight.  She instantly took what is meant to be a spiritually-focused endeavor straight to an ego-focused one.  Way to be frivolous and vapid.

I'm certain (or at least hopeful) that there are quieter Christians that are approaching this season of sorrowful reflection with more sincerity.  Unfortunately, I've dealt with a few outspoken ones recently that have left me with a sour taste in my mouth.  I'm not one to wear my spirituality on my sleeve, or wave a spiritual badge of honor in the faces of my fellow human beings, so when public announcements are made that "I can't eat dessert because I gave it up for Lent" when a simple "I'm not having dessert this evening" would suffice (No Lent references required), I get a little twitchy.

Perhaps it is because all of the authentic and life-changing spiritual experiences in my life have happened quietly on the inside, personal, intimate embracing of the Divine without the public proclamations or boasting or confessions.  And even though I've wanted to softly and privately cherish them and simultaneously shout them from the rooftops to the entire population of the world...words and explanations would fall terribly short.  Personal spiritual revelations and development are exactly that...personal...my neighbor down the street, or my waitress at dinner, or even my very own mother are just not going to understand.  And that's okay.

I know that I lean towards cynicism, but I find it hard to believe that real spiritual insight can fall in your lap from a few weeks without sugar or dessert or soda.  Especially, if you have underlying motives of personal gain  (such as my beach-focused acquaintance).  And what kind of impact can you make on the world while suffering through a few weeks dessert-free?  Unless, that is, you are shipping off your uneaten desserts to hungry children in war-torn countries.  Although the whipped cream may curdle and the chocolate get all melty and sticky.  (Donating the money you would normally spend on sugary sweets to worthwhile causes would certainly be a wonderful step in the right direction, though.  It's just an idea...)

In short, I'm not particularly interested in what you've given up for "Lent", but I genuinely want to hear what kind of spiritual impact it had on you (or on the hungry children in war-torn countries) when it's all over.  I sincerely want to hear you try to put into words what insight and personal change your forty days of suffering brought you.  I'll listen if you want to shout it from the rooftops.  Even if you do find that words fail in adequate description.

In the meantime...you can just quietly pass on dessert.

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