“What are you giving up for Lent?” my tribe asks. I say “tribe” because my brilliant writing coach friend taught me to view those who share my questions in life as my tribe.
The question didn’t spring itself on me this morning. I knew Lent was coming since the day of Epiphany in early January. Mardi Gras (or carnival) inevitably rolls into Lent with its ever-present question—what during the church’s traditional season of asceticism and preparation for Easter am I giving up?
One thing: my husband is our cook so whatever food he gives up, for the most part, I give it up too. I don’t consider this my Lenten discipline; it’s his discipline that I piggyback on. It leaves me to answer for myself the basic question: how will I focus on God this season?
Here’s what happened this morning. Tom announced he was going to fast until we went to Ash Wednesday services later this evening. I am terrible at fasting. It leads to drops in blood pressure, which aren’t good for me. So I went to the cafe while he drove off to run errands. As I was considering what to order, I thought, you need some food.
This happens sometimes. I go through spells where I’m not thinking about food or I’m eating a lot of rich food, which I can’t eat much of. All of a sudden, the thought will flood through me: girl, you need to eat something.
When the thought arose this morning, I knew I had my Lenten discipline. Listen to your body. Trust God to talk to you through your body. Hear God in what your body needs.
Jesus’s talking and teaching is grounded in physical life. Parable after parable; lesson after lesson. If you are inclined toward the concept of Jesus’s bodily incarnation, you could argue that his joy at being physically present in God’s physical creation was so exhilarating, he couldn’t stop talking about it. When we honor the wisdom of our bodies, we are honoring one of God’s wisdom paths.
This is NOT the same as giving in to bodily instincts. One time I heard the author and theologian Phyllis Tickle talk about the difference between humankind’s ever increasing telepathic abilities and the voice of God. The former, she said, should not be confused with the later. I agree with her. I’ve heard the voice of God. I’ve also seen ghosts. Lots of ghosts, the spirits of people who once lived on this earth. The ghosts don’t necessarily have anything to do with God. Some do. Some don’t. It’s up to me to discern the difference.
Is this Lenten “discipline” just an excuse to eat a brownie during Lent? Maybe. No question it’s the exact opposite of a traditional Lenten practice. I will not be reading to learn more about God or studying Scripture to discover more wisdom of God or talking in a small group about our joint journey with God. All of these are good things. They are also head things. I’ll be doing body things, which is much more difficult for me.
In fact, this may be the hardest Lenten practice I’ve ever undertaken. As a result, I expect to emerge on Easter morning a different person. But that’s what I ask of Lent: make me a person who better understands God’s presence in the world.