Giving and Leaving
Each Lenten season, Christians are called to reconsider their faith and the sacrifices made by Jesus. We are asked to open ourselves to the Holy Spirit and recommit to our baptismal promises. Many Christians chose to fast during this holy period. I remember my high school friend Julie. As Greek Orthodox, she gave up all meat. She ate peanut butter sandwiches….alot of peanut butter sandwiches. I often recall her silent commitment as a teenager to her faith by this act. It seemed odd when we were kids. As an adult, I like this period of the Christian life. I like the participatory nature of Lent. Each day, there is a submission to my faith. I must ask myself, “Am I committed to this day? This life? Can I walk this path?”
The idea of fasting from food or meat has been extended to fast from other things that distract us from a willing acceptance of Christ. Some people give up chocolate or alcohol. I will refrain from indulgences during the Lenten season. But I also use this time for deeper introspection. It can be….for me….a new conversion. I do not make New Year’s Resolutions. I spend the weeks between the glory of Christmas and the reconciliation of Resurrection Sunday in discernment. What about my nature separates me from Christ? What about my personality drives a wedge in my heart? I look for a negative trait in myself that I want to “give up”. And I set it down. One year I gave up gossiping. I didn’t listen to gossip or make gossip. I was a younger mother and have a small intimate circle of other mothers with whom I socialized. There was alot of gossip. Between office politics and my ladies group. I had much to put down. Gossips inky stain was no longer coloring my fingers or lips. It was a good habit to break. One year I gave up pessimism. Now, for a glass half empty girl, this was a very hard Lenten sacrifice. I felt like Polly Anna. Any time I felt negative, droopy, sarcastic or doubtful…I FLIPPED it. I took the a 180 degree turn and restated the observation. It was hard. Sometimes, I felt like a liar, because my mind was screaming the critical commentary while my lips were speaking rosy and light-heart kindness. But….it was my sacrifice and offering. And it worked. I am a much more positive, optimistic person. Last year I tried to give up doubt. That didn’t work to well. My life was upside down and filled with doubt. My faith was rocked to its core.
So this year….I really wanted to make this Lenten effort. What to give up?
Initially, I considered giving up sarcasm, but it is, as my many Facebook Flair gifts attest….my superpower. My wit and sarcasm are surgical and dead on. It is a large part of my extroverted person. But it is also a part of my meanness. I was asked, “And how does your sarcasm serve you?” After long consideration, I realized, my sarcasm is the manifestation of something deeper and darker. Contempt. I have disdain and scorn for all manner of things. When I looked up the definition of contempt, I had to ask myself if I truly despised so many things. Do I hate? When you boil it down, contempt is hatred. I had to admit I felt hatred in my heart. My heart was a fertile ground to nourish contempt into a deeply rooted, invasive sequoia of hate. Contempt is so corrosive to a soul. It separates me from God. It stains and divides. It can kill.
I desire a lighter, brighter heart filled with abundance and generosity. I want forgiveness for myself, so I must offer it easily. I want to drink of the true living water, but with scorn inside me, I would be forever thirsty. So I shall commit to love. I will respect. I will revere. I will praise. I will forgive. I will treat others as I wish to be treated. I know it is human nature to disdain and judge. It may be a very big part of my personality. In fact, it has been a long companion. But, like any junky, I must give up associations with certain people to free myself of the darkness and despair. Contempt has been served its eviction notice.
I yearn for that which is good. I want to appreciate this life and all my blessings. I want to have a lively and enduring fascination with this life. I want a devoted life. The Lord calls me his Beloved. I want to embrace this life. I cannot if I have contempt residing in my heart. I can barely get my hands around a cup of coffee with disdain in my heart and head.
This Lenten exercise is one of my hardest. I can hear the scorn I have for myself….”You can never change! I am part of you!” But I can change. Christ changed me once and can renew me again.
Love. Love abundantly. Believe and hand all over to Him.