It is Lent–a time of reflection and sacrifice. The church is decked out in purple. There is a great deal of solemnity and silence but it is a hopeful sort of solemnity. It is the hope that things will get better, even if they might get worse first. It is beautiful in its own way even if it doesn’t always resonate with everyone (but realistically, what DOES?) It is a preparation time.
I, like many other Episcopalians, have decided to give something up for Lent. When I was a teenager, I would give up chocolate in all its forms. It was terribly hard for me, and I believe that was the point. My friends would sometimes tease me and gently try to get me to give in. I was a teenager though, and while I dutifully tried to be a good Episcopalian, my mind was elsewhere. I was probably thinking of the sports I was involved in, the boys I thought were cute, the classes I loved the most, and the classes I detested (ahem! *cough* math *cough*). Today though, I try harder to think about why I do things.
This Lent season, I’ve given up all desserts and candy. I love chocolate, but in the past, I’d just have something with vanilla or caramel. A few days ago, I went to a Parisian-themed farewell party and of course there were plates of pastries. My favourites are eclairs. I was unable to enjoy them and I felt the sacrifice. It was difficult, but ultimately, I decided that my choice to abstain was more important.
I am not perfect. Sometimes I think I’m better than my company. I admit to thinking I’m smarter than some people. When I catch myself thinking that way, I try to find something good about those people. Slow-witted or not, wasn’t I called to love others as I love myself? Well, that seems like a tall order in itself. I am my own worst critic. There are days when I don’t think I’m good enough and I try to do things to improve whatever is bothering me. Should I then hold strangers to the same standards as I hold myself? Is that loving them? Probably not, unless I give them the same second chances I give myself for redemption. If that was the easy thing to do, maybe the Bible would have turned out to be a different story entirely. It is the right thing to do and I believe that is what it means to be Christians. There are many other facets to it of course, but I think that is the heart. I want to be a better person and my faith helps me on that path.
And that brings me back to Lent. It is a season of preparation, I said. Preparation for Easter? Preparation and self-examination and introspection? A whole lot of “How can I live up to the life I’m called to lead?” A bunch of “Am I good enough to receive God’s grace?” A bit of “What can I do to improve?” Knowing myself as I do, I have a long ways to go, but we all do I suppose. I understand that Grace is a gift that was given to us all, but I still think there is some earning that should be done on our part. That is why it is “amazing” and “sweet.”
I’ve said it before, in a previous post. I love being an Episcopalian. It gives me a sense of peace and community. And when I have questions, they provide answers. I love knowing why we do the things we do. The history. The language. I am already good enough, but I will never stop trying to be better. Happy Lent everyone.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/79813803@N08/11572024933″>Angel</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>