Approaching Lent

Lent starts on Wednesday.  Almost every year that I can remember, I’ve given up something for Lent.  It’s something I find for me is an integral part of my year.  It’s not required by the Episcopal Church, and I don’t think I even do it for religious reasons.  I’ve taken the religious tradition and turned it into a semi-secular ritual for myself.  It’s not about self-deprecation.  It’s not about getting closer to God.  In some ways I think it’s for self discipline and personal improvement, but primarily its a way for me to mark the time.

In the past I’ve given up the usuals: chocolate, candy, meat.  I’ve fasted.  But i also use the time for contemplation.  (I’m hoping that means I spend more time writing and reflecting for this blog.)  It’s not a bad time to start a diet, either, cutting out very fatty foods.

I won’t be giving up meat again. I won’t be fasting.  I probably will try to avoid meat on Fridays, but that’s typical for me anyway.  I won’t be giving up alcohol.  I won’t be giving up chocolate.  The plan is to give up computer games (other than scrabble/solitaire) which enables me to focus on other aspects of my life.  Spend time not in front of my computer, read more books, watch movies I’ve been meaning to watch.  Spend time with Mike.  Reflect on the meanings of things.  Fight depression.  Get back to knitting.

I’ve found that Lent provides me important opportunities to reflect, even when I’m not going to church.  Perhaps i lack the discipline at other points during the year, but I don’t succeed as thoroughly during other seasons.  Perhaps that’s growing up as a clergy kid and marking much of my life by the liturgical year.  Or maybe the distinct end point of Easter makes more of a difference.

I’ll be giving up things for Lent this year, whether or not I make it to an Ash Wednesday service.  And for me, it’s a return to my self, looking inward, but giving outward in return.

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