Saturday, March 03, 2012
This last week I was asked by a friend who is not particularly familiar with the traditions of the Church or the idea of the “Christian Seasons of the Year”, what this whole Lent thing was all about. She, like most people, understood the season of Lent merely as the time of year when you give up something you like for a while (Of course only after over indulging in it on “Fat Tuesday” and collecting beads in the process). Having grown up in a protestant church I must admit that we didn’t pay too much attention to the seasons of the Christian year, other than the table cloth colors on the alter table in the sanctuary at church were a different color when we changed to a new season.
It wasn’t until much later in my life that I started to see the value in reliving the story of scripture through the seasons of the Christian year, and recognizing that there was a pattern to the seasons of preparation, celebration and growth that were evident in them. So how do I explain Lent to my friend you may be asking? I told her the story of something that happened to me, hopefully it will give you some insight into Lent as I see it:
I was sitting on my couch watching the opening round of the 2012 World Superbike races that I had recorded while eating a sandwich during my lunch break. As I was intently watching the races I took a bite of my sandwich only to also take a bite of my cheek! For those of us who have bitten your cheek or your tongue while eating (which is all of us!) you know how much it hurts. The momentary muscle freeze where you don’t move waiting for the lightening bolt of pain to hit… the combination of the “squeek” and “crunch” sound you hear in your head… all make this experience how shall I say?? …. intense. I spit my bite of sandwich out on my plate and instinctively put my finger in my mouth to feel a little flap of skin open in my cheek and of course a nice amount of blood accompanying it. I went to the bathroom and rinsed my mouth with cold water shoved a wad of toilet paper between my cheek and gum and after stopping the bleeding went back to work grumpy and hungry.
For the rest of the day my cheek hurt. No matter how I tried, I could NOT keep my tongue from touching the wound or playing with the flap of skin. It affected everything I did all day, and most of the next, yet the event that caused it took place in a nano-second, and the wound itself was about the size of sesame seed …. Oops I mean a “Mustard seed” for you churchy story type people. It is amazing how something so small can have such a huge affect on your life, physically and emotionally. There are lots of little things that affect us negatively, especially in a spiritual sense. Little things that have happened to us, little experiences we have had; some of them accidents; some of them small decisions that we made unconsciously or consciously thinking “oh something that small wont matter.” The problem is that little things easily become big things. Think of coral reefs, or the wad of lint you pull out of your dryer every time you do laundry (you do clean the lint trap don’t you? It’s a fire hazard!) Ok here is the punch line… thanks for hanging on so long!
Lent is the time we take a look at ourselves and we see what are those things we have experienced or picked up along the way that damage our relationship with God and others. They may be small, but they have a huge effect on us. For forty days (not counting Sundays) before Easter, Christians have been, for centuries, looking at themselves asking what are the things that damage my relationship with God and with others. Some of us have been asking God to reveal those things to us, some of us give up those things, some of us add disciplines like fasting or study or sabbath as a way of growing closer to God.
Whatever the mechanism is, the idea is that we spend a significant time in introspection and then emerge from that, sometimes difficult journey, with a celebration that pronounces the work of God is alive and well and not even death can stop God from transforming all things in Easter.
I hope that ya’ll have a wonderful season of Lent and that we all discover something new about ourselves and our relationship with God during this time. Now go clean your lint trap and be careful eating lunch!
See ya next week