Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
~ GK Chesterton

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ash Wednesday/Lent 2015

Reflecting upon what to do for Lent, I was struck by how much I will gain from my fasting.  I cannot fast from food, due to personal health issues, so I choose to fast from other things that distract me from God and from my vocation as wife and mother.  Primarily, screen time; a few other things, too.

[Kindle doesn’t count as screen time because a) it’s a source of my spiritual reading and b) Paperwhite is not bad for the eyes, so it’s just like a book.] 

When thinking about the things I’ll be doing instead of my habitual distractions, I acknowledge that it won’t be easy to break old habits.  But it doesn’t take a deep thinker to see what I will gain.  Learning to stop and smell the roses is where I need to serve God right now.  And I have to wonder why it’s taken the approach of Lent to get me to do it! I didn't always appreciate it, I don't always appreciate it, but sacrifice does pay off.  Sometimes it's long-term, but sometimes there is an immediate payback.

I was discussing this with one of my children.  She said the same thoughts occurred to her.  Last Lent, when she gave up social media, she was able to enjoy reading so many things that she wouldn’t have read, had she been online.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this outlook.  In fact, the joyful Christian should be delighted to discover what can be gained from “putting on the new man.”  My goal in fasting isn’t maudlin self-flagellation.  It’s for stripping myself of the me-centered things I do in order to be closer to the person God is calling me to be.  It is a mark of my spiritual immaturity that I would gripe about what I’m missing by fasting. 

In addition to the giving-up parts of Lent, I am going to be intentional about noticing what it is I gain from my sacrifices.  God created a beautiful world.  It's beautiful even in a penitential season.  Perhaps especially in a penitential season.  He makes all things new again.  How do I know I have faith, if it isn’t tested . . . if I don’t have the chance to praise Him during difficulties?

All my sacrifices this Lent are offered up for the persecuted and martyred living under ISIS terror.  It is in their honor that I take time to enjoy beauty in the world.  In the stories of those who have endured suffering, whether the suffering was due to ill health, social instability, or institutionalized persecution, there is an admirable element I've observed.  That's the ability to find the good and the beautiful as a means both to survival and to maintain faith.  Soviet political prisoners who continued to write poetry.  POWs who mentally redecorated their house back home.  Saints who remained faithful to God despite a very dark night.

The world is messy.  There is evil.  There is suffering.  Without ignoring these things, people of the light choose to find joy amidst the sorrow.  To rephrase a popular musical, we've read The Book; we come out on top. 

Here's to a blessed and fruitful Lent!


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