I haven't practiced the observance of Lent for more years than I can remember. This year, however, this season of fasting, reflection and prayer, my spirit is guiding me to pay attention. I think back to what Lent meant to me when I was young - Ash Wednesday, walking around trying to pretend that I didn't have a big ashy smudge on my forehead. Meatless Fridays, lunch consisting of a tuna sandwich, a cheese pizza, gorton's fish sticks for dinner. Searching my mind for something that I could 'give up' during the 40 long days between Fat Tuesday and Easter Sunday. Candy, TV one night a week, and as I got older perhaps saving the indulgence of cocktails for the weekend, or possibly ending the 40 days a few pounds lighter by denying myself between meal snacks, dessert.
In this juncture of my life I rarely find the time for church. The season of Lent, just another 40 days in the course of my year. I'm not proud of the fact that my life has led me away from the church-going practice of my childhood, but neither do I feel regret or remorse. I'm not lacking spiritually - prayer, my faith being my constant companion, comfort. This this year though, this season, it's different somehow. I can't ignore what my heart is telling me to do, what to give up, what to celebrate.
Although I didn't attend church service yesterday, no dark and dusty blotch applied to my forehead, I do plan to observe and honor the spirit of Lent. The season of giving up, letting go, going without in order to receive abundance at the end of a journey. And the task before me, for me personally, will take self control, prayer, strength of will. At the end of these 40 days I hope to be looking ahead for once, and not looking behind.
I hope to end this period of fasting and reflection with a strengthened spirit, a renewed sense of faith, peace and perspective. This is a season I will celebrate in daily personal practice, no succumbing to weekend church schedules. I won't be denying myself sausage on my Friday night pizza, although during Lent (and just about any other time of the year) Friday night fish fries are on my radar. My challenge, what I'm planning to 'give up' is baggage. Baggage that I wear in an emotional backpack 24-7. It's heavy. I'm sick of carrying it. Its contents plague my thoughts each and every day. But yet it's always there.
This morning as I write, in my mind I'm removing the backpack from my shoulders. Setting it on the floor. Challenging myself to leave it there, not pick it up. To allow myself to feel the lightness of my shoulders, no longer bearing the burden of that clunky bag of shit. And maybe, with the aid of prayer, meditation, filling my time with meaningful distractions, I might just find at the end of these 40 days that I simply forgot that I ever owned that backpack. Let it go missing. It was something I never wanted in the first place.
Then I will be at peace.
Maybe not 10 pounds lighter, but celebrating my spirit...
the photo is the bike path i travel in warmer days. snow covered. cold. the borders undefinable. in 40 days the path will be clear. it's twists, turns, ups and downs visible and ready to enjoy.
in the springtime. when everything is new.