I grew up in a Southern Baptist church. We didn’t celebrate Lent. Certainly, Easter was a big deal, you know, being the whole point of the faith and all, but the liturgical calendar was totally foreign to me. As an adult, we’ve started going to a United Methodist church. Our church keeps a much more structured calendar of the “Seasons of Christianity,” if you will. This has been a wonderful learning experience for me in church history, theology and doctrine.
Last year, one of our Sunday School teachers asked what our emotional baggage might be regarding the season of Lent. He’d asked a similar question about Christmas and Easter, and I’d been able to give an answer. The purpose of the question is to identify your issues and put aside your known preconceptions and think about the season in a new way. But when it came to Lent, I had no preconceived notions. I had no experience from which to draw feelings or emotions. It had been a strictly academic exercise for me.
This year feels different. My friend Sarabeth struck a chord with her post about Lent. She writes, “I am looking forward to the paring down, the stripping away.” I absolutely relate to that. I’m no different than everyone else I know: It feels like I’m doing too much with too little. I’ve made efforts in the past year to restructure my life; to make it less complicated, less overwhelming. I’ve had some success with that, though not nearly enough. I still feel like the garlic press of responsibility pushes on me just the tiniest bit harder every day. And I am so tired.
The 40 days of Lent are said to symbolize the 40 days Christ spent in the wilderness before beginning his public ministry. I’ve checked our bank account and there’s no way I can spend the next 40 days at a spa (my version of the wilderness) reflecting, meditating and getting facials. Even I cannot find a way to equate hot rock massages with spiritual growth, and I can justify almost anything.
So I have decided to participate in the real spirit of the next 40 days. I’m going to start paring down and stripping away the unnecessary pieces in my life. I’m not going to resolve to give up chocolate or red meat, as I have in the past. I’m going to actually give up the things I don’t need or don’t need any more.
When we were kids, my mother would periodically force my sister and I to clean out our bedrooms. (We had hoarder tendencies.) She would pull out everything in our toy boxes, from under the bed and out of our closets. She had an “everything goes” plan, unless we could justify why it should stay. “Does it have a purpose?” was her question. “It’s pretty,” or “I like it,” were not an acceptable answers.
It’s time to clean out my life’s closets: does it have a purpose? what’s on my calendar that doesn’t need to be? what activities are draining me instead of filling me up? what relationships are toxic? what groups need me to step aside so someone better equipped can step up? do I have something to contribute to this group or do I just like the status of being here? what can be delegated? where do I really want to go? what gets me closer? what’s in the way?
I have no idea how this will turn out, but I am genuinely excited about the prospect of cleaning out the clutter and the noise. I yearn for peace.
UPDATE: Apparently, my little blog world is all thinking about about “letting go” today. My friend Boots also has some moving thoughts on the subject.