Monday, February 16, 2009

Lent

[Tap tap tap... is this thing on? I always enjoy reading this blog, but have yet to actually post something! Here goes...]

Like others in the group, I grew up in an Evangelical church. I never observed Lent, and really had no clue what it was until I was in college. Even then, I still didn't really "get it," nor did I put much effort into exploring it. All I really knew was that some of the girls in my dorm decided to not hit the dessert table in the cafeteria for 40 days. How enticing!

It wasn't until last year that Adam and I decided to learn a little more about Lent and to subsequently observe it. It was a challenging time (we gave up meat), and while it was beneficial in that it forced me to deny myself, I feel like I could have taken more away from it. So, here I sit, reading about Lent and contemplating how I might observe it in a more meaningful way this year.

From what I have learned (and I'm sure there are some of you who are much more educated on the subject, so feel free to add/interject), the word "Lent" comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lengten, which means spring. It is a season of pruning, of giving and of giving up, of reflection, penitence, simplicity, and growth-- a season leading up to the celebration of Christ's resurrection.

Now, I'm not "about" performing perfunctory rituals based solely on longstanding traditions, but since Lent has never held that place in my life, I think it could be a very beneficial season. It is not in my nature to readily pause and reflect or to deny myself, so I think a dedicated period of time to do so will probably do me good.

Yesterday's conversation (well, the parts that I was there for, at least) got me thinking about these digital mediums, communities, networks, whatever you want to call them. I wasn't left thinking that they are necessarily detrimental, but rather that I should take some time to reflect on WHY I use them. And while I know that some of you don't use networks like Facebook, I must confess that I am one of the people who spend too much time on it. So perhaps this upcoming Lenten season will be a good time for me to take a break from it, to instead use my time reflecting, investing in relationships face-to-face, and opening myself up to more ways that I can love God and love my neighbor. Lent is also a time for prayer-- another subject on which I am "fuzzy." After our conversation on prayer a few weeks ago, I picked up Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove's Becoming the Answer to our Prayers: Prayer for Ordinary Radicals-- I'm hoping it will glean some insight into my confused head.

I'm curious to hear your thoughts about Lent. Past experiences (or lack thereof) are welcomed. I'm sure there are EmDes-ers out there with more insight on the subject, so please share away! Is anyone else interested in observing it this year? Ash Wednesday is February 25th..

9 comments:

Sarah and Ron said...

How sad is it that my first reaction to your post was that I was going to miss you on Facebook? Selfish, selfish. I'm a work in progress, folks.

On a more serious note, I really identified with your post. Ron and I practiced Lenten observance last year for the first time ever. I only ever knew about it as thing Catholic girls would use to try to lose weight or clean up personal habits (my personal favorite was always "I'm giving up the F word"). Last year Ron and I each gave up something meaningful to us and were amazed at how the experience opened our eyes to a different understanding of Lent.

Even though I participated last year, I'm still pretty fuzzy on a lot of the practices of Lent and why they persist. Maybe someone who knows can talk about it at our next gathering? I found it meaningful and I'd love to continue to learn more about it...

charlottesal said...

Although I have a similar experience with the whole Lent thing and girls in college giving up candy or whatever, I have never felt prompted to give up something and pray.

I'd hate to send you to my blog but it explains some of my thoughts on the similar subject of resolutions.

I find that any time is a good time to reflect on your year or chunk of life and see what good has emerged from it or what could do with change and evolution (oh, there's a bad word!)

Writing has helped me reflect and adjust. I sometimes find that if I use the word meditate... where I find time for quiet and clear my head, then I can hear what else is going on in my head. I can focus on what is important.

maventheavenger aka jamie said...

I would definitely like to explore Lent further. I would love to hear from those who have participated in it before.
I think there is much to be learned from joining together in the spiritual rhythm of the church calendar.

Jimbo said...

We definitely took part in lent in my family growing up. Looking back at it today, I’m not sure how I feel about it. In my full blown Conservative Christian Right days, I scoffed at it and believed I was above that. Today, I feel more confused than anything else.
Some of the things I remember the most about lent are:
- Always seemed to be a dreary time of the year. Partly because we lived in Wisconsin, and Feb-Mar in Wisconsin is pretty frick’n dreary all on its own. But there was much more to it than that, and I have trouble putting it into words. There just seemed to be this heaviness…this somberness…sort of down cast. Like I said, I don’t know how to explain it.
- I went to a Catholic grade school, so a couple times a week during regular time of the year, we’d have Mass. During Lent, we’d do the “Stations of the Cross”. That was an experience that drove home to you the trial, pain and suffering of Jesus during his death. Each station was also intertwined with current stories of pain and suffering. I know, seems kind of horrifying to subject elementary age kids to that and I’m sure that had a lot to do with the feeling of lent. A lot of kids would goof around during that time and I would try to not sit near them. Kind of felt like goofing around at a funeral, you know?
- The Church would also do its best to make a somber presentation. Things like no flowers (usually had flowers), covering up the huge cross in front with a drape, lots of purples and dark colors.
- As far as fasting…our observance of that was to not eat meat on Fridays, and not eat candy. Doesn’t seem like much in the way of fasting. However, I don’t think we were fasting to try to get God to do or answer something like I’ve often done in my later years. We were fasting to remind us of the season we were in (at least weekly). I think the key is, it was all much more like morning or remembrance than anything else.
In the past few years, when I’ve fasted, it has always been to “get an answer from God” or, like I said, to get God to do something. And the result always seems to have been, the very thing I don’t want to happen, happens. I know some people have said to me “well, you didn’t fast long enough…you quit too early”. I REALLY don’t like myself for the motives behind those fasts. And I would really say I have a lot of trouble having the right motive for a fast.
However, I find writing this today to have been really enlightening for me. I think there was a lot more significance to that time of lent as a child that I have attempted to suppress and pooh-pooh as an adult that I am wondering if I need to recapture. I’m not sure how. I am open to exploring this more as a Post-Catholic, Post-Evangelical, Post-Charismatic, Post-… Emergent Christian.
Thank you SOOOO much Tara for starting this discussion and getting me thinking and reliving differently about my past.

Arizona Bam said...

Hey folks,

I wanted to pass on this Lent resource provided by CRM:

Daily Lent Devotional Email

I received these devotionals last year, and found them to be helpful in focusing my mind on the season. Just thought I'd pass on the link to those that may be interested...

Thorn-67 said...

Ironically, given the fragile state of my spirituality over the past year or better...I am quite interested in celebrating the season of LENT this year...In fact it has been at least 5-6 years since I have observed the Lenten season in any regard with any real sincerity. I am happy to be undertaking this season in the context of The Emerging Desert Cohort and the perspective and encouragement it provides.
I have been reading thru a small Lenten devotional "The Lenten Labyrinth" to gain some perspective prior to Ash Wednesday next week. In it, the author introduced the use of large ‘Labyrinths’ more commonly used by Christians in the medieval era during the season of Lent. I had never heard of this practice until now but the application is really provocative. There is some great spiritual symbolism in its contemplation.
Perhaps this information is old news to some...but I found the idea behind the Lenten Labyrinth fascinating and I would love to share a little bit more about what I've learned when we meet again...

maventheavenger aka jamie said...

Jim, I really liked your thoughts from the Catholic perspective. Remembrance and mourning...
Thanks for the link, Adam. I just got that in my inbox, and really love that CRM puts that out.
Joy, Zack Newsome said they have a labyrinth at one of the churches downtown--maybe a field trip?

Tara said...

Thanks, everyone, for sharing your thoughts. Jim, I was really hoping you'd share coming from a Catholic background-- thanks! If we have time today, I'd love it if we could touch on the Ash Wednesday/Lent topic a bit (Joy, I'm really interested in hearing more about the Lenten Labyrinth!).

Looking back on my "spiritual upbringing," I think I was raised to view Christianity as a "relationship NOT a religion," and to think that people like Catholics were too caught up in all the rituals and observances, and that they were probably missing the point because of all that "extra stuff." (I don't operate under that mindset now.)

There's something that draws me to the idea of collectively participating in this season with other believers-- to reflect, prepare, "prune," what have you. I think there's value in that.

Eager to learn more...

Jimbo said...

Tara,regarding your statement:
I was raised to view Christianity as a "relationship NOT a religion," and to think that people like Catholics were too caught up in all the rituals and observances, and that they were probably missing the point because of all that "extra stuff."

After being in a Non-denominational church for past several years, I was believing the same thing. It is only just recently that I've started questioning that perhaps there was much more to those practices than I was allowing myself to see.
I think, for many Catholics, those practices are just hoops to jump thru. Now, I'm wondering if that isn't the case of ALL churches and religions. They ALL have practices (some more formal than others) that "bring them closer to God". And those practices VERY quickly become the focal point rather than the vehicle.
In our last church experience, the worship (rock music) and message (on a video screen) became that focal point.
The persistent question for me is, how can I do these things w/o the point being about doing them? In many ways, I feel like a very disfunctional person trying to have a real and honest relationship with someone (GOD).