Married to the Empire

Monday, April 5, 2010

Post-Lenten Thoughts

Now that Easter is over, I've decided to share that I participated in Lent for the first time ever. I'm Southern Baptist, and we Baptists have always focused on the joy of the resurrection. We love Jesus and enjoy the stories and lessons of his life and ministry, but we don't tend to give a lot of time to the suffering of Jesus because we like to focus on the happier stuff.

I love my church. I've loved all the churches I've been a member of, but I crave a little more at times. I've been looking at liturgy more and more, and through my personal study of prayer, I'm even discovering that there is something to be said for liturgical prayer, which I'd always scoffed at before as a lazy way to pray. (Reading Mudhouse Sabbath has really helped to change my opinion of that, as well as some liturgical prayers my cousin gave me for use during Lent. There's a certain beauty and depth in some of those prayers, and they're often things I wouldn't have thought to pray for in my self-absorption.)

So, this year, I decided to give up something for Lent and try to learn more about this practice. I gave up candy, which probably sounds silly to most adults, but I like candy a lot. It's a little pick-me-up on some days--a sugar rush I enjoy far more than cookies or cake or other sweets. So believe me, this was a sacrifice for me.

It wasn't a difficult sacrifice, at first. But as the days went by, I craved it. It didn't help that when I started tutoring, the teacher I work with left a giant bag of candy in my room as treats for my students. When that tired slump hit about 6th period because I'd been up since the crack of dawn and sitting under fluorescent lights all day, it became difficult not to indulge in a piece or two. But I endured. Again, it probably sounds silly, but Baptists aren't big on fasting of any kind. I wasn't brought up to do it. Not one of my churches has ever made fasting a practice. So, giving something up really wasn't an easy or natural thing for me to do.

But despite the candy fast, I'm not sure I really did Lent right. My cousin picked up a copy of the book The Via Crucis for me, which is great to use as a devotional during Lent. Unfortunately, because I didn't get it until a couple of weeks into Lent, I didn't use it as faithfully as I'd intended. I'm not very good at playing catch-up with stuff when I'm just in it on my own. What I did read, I enjoyed and pondered. Shawn Small presented details leading up to the crucifixion in ways I hadn't thought of before. So, I did find that useful, but in my own laziness, I didn't use it to its full advantage. In other words, I didn't make it through the entire book. But there's always next year.

Lent is meant to be a season of repentance. I did work on that, although haphazardly. At the very least, I gave it more thought than I typically do, and I prayed more consistently than I have in the past.

Faith is a journey, and sometimes it's not an easy one. I can't say that I struggled terribly through this, but I do believe I've grown. I've been far more mindful of the need to pray and ask forgiveness. I was more focused on ways I need to change and things I need to learn. I have a deeper appreciation for the sacrifice Jesus made for all mankind. I don't particularly like focusing on the ugly truth of the crucifixion, but it made Easter Sunday that much sweeter. When we gloss over the brutality of what Jesus experienced in order to redeem us, we fail to realize just how great the gift of salvation really is. As we sang our opening song in church on Easter Sunday, I found myself uncharacteristically choking up on the chorus:

My Redeemer lives
My Redeemer lives
My Redeemer lives
My Redeemer lives

Indeed he does.


Catherine said...

I don't really feel like there is a "wrong" way to "do lent". But, I do think that any focus at all on the season of Lent makes Easter that much sweeter! :-)

Allison said...

I'm with Catherine. I don't think there is a right or wrong way to do it. Raised a Catholic, I was taught that Lent is basically giving something up + reflection. Of course, nothing that we choose to go without will ever approximate Christ's suffering, but I think that being mindful of giving something up prompts us to be mindful in other, more meaningful ways. I usually give up bread, but went a few years committing to doing something *more*. More prayer time, more Bible time, etc. Not sure how the Vatican views doing more instead of giving up, but I found it quite fruitful.

Kimber said...

Like you, I was raised Southern Baptist. In one of those weird twists in life, DH and I joined a Methodist church about 7 years ago. Lent was something completely new and fascinating to me. I agree with both Catherine and Allison...there's no "wrong" way to "do lent".
I choose to view it as another avenue to bring my focus back to God and attune my hearing to his voice.

Thirsty said...

This was my 3rd year to celebrate Lent and use The Via Crucis - I have yet to make every reading every day. Even then, however, it's a much greater awareness than any other pre-Easter season in my life.