01-Lent: A Resilient Invitation
My 40 days of Lent are not about absolution or confessing
to the world my mistakes and oversights and shortsightedness.
Come Easter Sunday, I want to be able to claim a sweeter soul,
an undisturbed tongue, a relational spirit, a loving mind.
- Lisa Factora-Borchers
You buy furniture. You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will
ever need in my life . . . Then the right set of dishes. Then the
perfect bed. The drapes. The rugs. Then you’re trapped in your
lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you.
- Narrator, Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
Dear fellow wanderers,
It’s that season again. If, like us, you’re located 40 degrees north of the equator, sludgy snow still occupies the sidewalks. In addition to the promise of a coming thaw and return of deciduous growth, this period also signals the commencement of a long-revered Christian ritual: that of Lent, beginning on March 5th (Ash Wednesday) and lasting until April 17th (Maundy Thursday).
Discomfort affords growth
For all the flak that Christian observances receive, Lent might be one of the most resilient; as Geez friend Lyndon Froese penned for Biped Magazine, “ Christianity has it right: most of us could use a contemplative period where we use discomfort and self-denial for growth.”
Traditionally, Lent was a time in which new Christians would prepare for baptism. It was a time of reconciliation, restoration, forgiveness of sins. Now it’s a season of fasting and self-examination, giving up something in favour of seeking something more in line with our vision for self and society.
Industrial civilization has caused many to forget (ourselves included) that we’re still creatures that inhabit a seasonal world. Let’s honour that and take advantage of these few weeks as we together attempt to forge a fairer, gentler community. We start with ourselves but never forget about our local and wider communities.
Sure, like most religious formalities it often comes with baggage. We’re not denying that.
Those 40 days Jesus spent in the desert weren’t easy. He didn’t just give up sustenance for his wanderings; he took this time to be tested and to seek wisdom.
“Consider opening up space in your life for silence, prayer, and truth telling – a place to hear the prophetic word,” as Mark van Steenwyk of Jesus Radicals wrote about Lent a year before last.
Ideas for action
While worthy of critique, Lent is still an optimal time to learn how to fast. Some examples:
- Abstain from eating meat (as many Eastern Orthodox and Catholic traditions do).
- Walk or ride a bike instead of driving a car; use this time to observe nature.
- Curb your time on the internet (turn it off at home, or set some evenings or days as wifi-free); this allows you more time with friends and family or time to pick up that book you’ve always wanted to read.
- Take up a new spiritual practice: meditate, pray, or read a special text in a contemplative way; write down your thoughts and insights.
Drop us a line
What are you giving up or taking on for Lent? Do you think it’s all a bit of a farce? What will compel you to keep living without a washing machine or coffee beyond Maundy Thursday? We want to hear. Email us at lentforskeptics [at] geezmagazine [dot] org, and we’ll include a selection of your perspectives in the next weekly message.
All for now.
James Wilt, Kyla Neufeld and all your friends at Geez
Note: The quote by Lisa Factora-Borchers at the top of the page is from her blog myecdysis.com.