I haven’t participated in Lent for at least 13 years.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but I’VE BEEN RAISING KIDS AND I BARELY HAVE TIME TO WASH MYSELF. If Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for Easter, well:
- I repent to my kids regularly
- I’m very, very fast when my kids are in danger, and
- I totally prepare for Easter by buying headless, candy-pooping chickens
Basically what I’m saying is, I win at Easter.
Take that, Lent.
But this year, in the most gigantic piece of proof EVER that my kids are getting older, I found myself with, like, 5 minutes to contemplate Lent. And to think that maybe it’s time to participate again. And to ponder what exactly I might give up.
OK, press the pause button on this post.
I know that everyone who reads here isn’t all Jesusy and stuff. And even the Jesusy people may not be from a Lent-observing tradition. So I’m going to take just a minute to explain. Skip on through if you’ve heard this before, but, for the not-so-Lenty among you, let’s deconstruct Lent. In other words, what is it? And why bother?
According to Google, which we all know is the very best place to get religious information, “Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection.”
Lent starts today and continues for the 40 days (not including Sundays – after all, we don’t want to get all crazy) until Easter. In practice here in the States, it’s the time when each participant fasts from something specific to himself or herself. Facebook, traveling by car, mojitos, nachos bell grande – the more creative you are about what you give up, the more Lent points you’re awarded. Minus the part about Lent points, which aren’t a real thing but which would totally make it WAY MORE RAD. (Someone put me in charge of Lent next year. Seriously.)
The truth is, Jesusy people in America freestyle when it comes to Lent. We like to participate for loads of reasons. Sometimes to feel closer to God, sometimes as a spiritual discipline, sometimes to draw attention to a cause, and sometimes because our best friends in the whole entire world, Caffeine and Chocolate, come to us in our dreams dressed in red riding hood cloaks with cloven hooves and horns on their heads and tell us with maniacal grins that they own our souls, and we wake up screaming and sweating and longing for big, hurking cups o’ Joe and entire bags of Hershey’s nuggets. Lent – it’s a high church synonym for Caffeine and Chocolate Rehab.
At its center, though, Lent, like other cultural and religious observances, pulls us into community with each other and ties us with thick cords to our historical roots. It makes us stop for a season to reconsider who we are at our core. It forces us away from the insignificant things that entangle us and turns our eyes to examine what’s relevant, what drives us.
At its best, Lent isn’t about deprivation. At its best, Lent allows us to work in concert with Love to refill our souls.
So. Press play.
There I was. For my 5 free minutes. Contemplating Lent and my role in it. My mini-fast, if you will. My entanglements. My distractions. And how I might be part of something bigger than myself for the next 40 non-Sunday days.
I thought about giving up Caffeine. And then I laughed until I cried until I passed out from sheer terror. I came to petting my coffee cup and telling him not to worry, that mama’s not going anywhere. It was a special time for us.
And then I thought about no.
The word no.
And what if I just… let no go?
What will happen?
I don’t know!
I almost dismissed it. I almost said no to abandoning no. Because giving up no is silly. And giving up no when you’re a mother of five children is ridiculous and undoubtedly impossible.
But then I thought about the power of no. I thought about the way I use no every day to short-circuit conversations with my kids. I thought about how my kids are now 5-13 years old, which is certainly old enough to deserve explanations for a negative response. For example, I wonder whether, instead of saying “no more treats,” I can muster enough brain power to reroute the no into an opportunity to teach. “One treat is enough for now because I love you and it’s my job to help you learn healthy eating habits even though mine suck. Let’s talk about having a treat after dinner.” And can I say that 76 times in a row which is what it’ll take?
And you know what? The more I thought about it, the more I remembered how much I LIKE Ridiculous and Impossible. They are fun guys! AND IF I GIVE UP NO, THINK OF ALL THE LENT POINTS I’LL GET!
I’m giving up no for Lent.
Which will either be an amazing opportunity to engage my kids – and Love – on a deeper and more intentional level, or it’ll be a complete train wreck. Heh heh.
Either way – Lent? I give up.