No More Giving Up
This is the way it goes: Christmas, Epiphany, Mardi Gras, Mardi Gras Day, Ash Wednesday, Lent. We are now in the 40 days of Lent. (This is a religious calendar, but life in New Orleans revolves around it; there’s a season of Mardi Gras for a reason). This year, I’ve made a hard shift on Lent, one many of you might disagree with.
Traditionally, Lent asks us to give up something or take on something, both of which are intended to heighten our focus on God. In past Lents, I’ve given up alcohol, ice cream, chocolate, sugar, dessert (yes, it’s different; giving up sugar includes pancakes, for example), and meat on Fridays. (You can tell my indulgences from this list; my mother notoriously gave up butter most Lents). I’ve gone vegan 3 days a week (DON’T get me started on how HARD that was!) and fasted on Wednesdays. I’ve taken on many and varied disciplines, including reading scripture, book studies, meditation (and cursing).
You can see the ascetic nature of Lent in my Episcopal observance.
This year two things happened. First, I was going back through old photos and came across the ones from where I “created something beautiful” every day during Lent. I really enjoyed looking at those photos. Second, I’ve lived through the coronavirus. And my mother dying. And a hurricane. And arctic weather in New Orleans. And people freezing to death in Texas. It’s been a globally rough 12 months.
So, no more giving up. My Lents will be different from now on. There is enough suffering in the world. We do not need to artificially create more to force ourselves to remember God. I focused on God as much—or more—when I was creating those vignettes, sewn art, moments of beauty, and small totems of love.
This is not a light-hearted change. It’s one of profound theological significance. It makes me ask: when are we more in line with God? When we are creating beauty and joy and contentment? Or when we are creating suffering?
I know MANY religious persons really, really like to focus on suffering as THE avenue to God. They consider your faith “immature” if it’s only a “good time God” you worship. They vaunt suffering, which seems a bit of a control issue (“I’ll make my own suffering to be in charge of it”). Or maybe they’re making lemonade out of lemons.
Well, dammit, there are enough lemons in the world. If and when they enter my domain, I will focus on God. But until then, I will focus on God.
For 2021, each day, I will create ThumbPrayers.
I do not sell these. I give them away.
If you have a ministry that would like some Thumb Prayers, LMK in the comments. I can get them to you.
In the meantime, I intend to spend (at least this) Lent with God in happiness, contentment, and joy.