Fasting. Weeping. Mourning. Almsgiving. Sin. Repentance. Prayer. These are the themes of Lent. They sound dark and sad. They make us want to look away.
We shy from the lenten seasons of our lives. I want not to fast, but to feast, not weep and mourn, but rejoice. I want to hang on tightly to what is mine rather than to give it away. I find it easier to ignore my sin than to repent. I am tempted to keep busy with everything else rather than to pray.
Where does this get us? We lead lives that, by and large, go unexamined. We get up in the morning, work the day through, and sleep again. We have good moments, no doubt. We laugh, we love, we play. All too often, though, we don't. Instead we argue, we struggle, we worry. We feel overwhelmed by our tasks, lost in our responsibilities. We lay our heads down to rest but find we can't.
We react by checking out. We watch T.V. or surf the web. We call a friend to gossip. We drink. We eat too much. We shop. We make excuses for it all. Life is too hard. We need a break.
But none of our reacting heals the wound. Our lives continue to feel incomplete, sometimes even in the good times.
The truth is, Lent does not offer up something new; rather, it holds a mirror up to my life as it is. The remedy is not to turn away, but courageously to look at our own reflections.
Below are a series of questions for reflection and journalling or talking over with a friend or a spiritual director. How have you encountered your personal lenten seasons?
Find a quiet place to be. Spend a few moments becoming present to yourself. Notice how it feels to be in your body, in this place, at this time.
Even if you're not sure there's anyone listening, invite God to be present with you.
Reflect on these questions:
When you consider the themes of Lent -- fasting, mourning, almsgiving, sin, repentance, prayer -- does any attract you? Repel you?
When have you experienced a season of lent in your life, a time when you were called on to fast or mourn or give away what you would rather have kept? How did you respond?
What are the struggles in your life today? What are the joys?
How do you check out of your own life? When or under what circumstances? How do you feel when you reflect back on those times?
If you hold a mirror up to your life, what do you see looking back at you? How do you feel about it?
When you have answered these questions in your thoughts or in writing, pause and again become present to yourself and to God. What do you notice?