If you come from a liturgical background you might want to stop reading right here.
I’ve no idea how much of what I’m about to write may be actually sacrilegious if you are passionately liturgical, but I strongly suspect some of it might.
If it is, I sincerely apologise, that is not my intention at all; but as might be obvious I did not come from a liturgical background.
So, I arrived at adulthood with no intuitive understanding of, and precious little knowledge about, the Liturgical calendar or its observances. Lent had to do with fasting, and somehow with Mardi Gras, which seemed a VERY strange combination. That was about the extent of my relationship with it.
Sounded cool, though. And I tried to fast things a couple times, but I’m sort an out-of-sight, out-of-mind, kind of girl, so I can’t say the fasting did much for my focus on God.
This year as Lent approached yet again, I thought … yet again… “Should I do the Lent thing? What should I fast?”.
Since I’m in the middle of redesigning my life, Lent observance seemed especially timely. But still, I felt no specific connection to Lent.
Then I happened to see an article on what Christians get wrong about Lent, which included the statement
“It’s also important to remember in times of fasting, such as Lent, that we’re not just “giving something up,” but we’re “giving something over…””
and though this was not the author’s point, his statement sparked the thought:
Lent is not just about what we GIVE UP, but about what we ADD in its place.
Just as someone might fast food for a day and use the hunger pangs as a reminder to stop and pray for something important, I could do the Lenten fast and use that 40 whole days to remind me to pray first; stress / panic / freak out about how to fix it on my own, second.
I have absolutely no idea if that is the intention of Lent, but, having spent most of my early Christian walk making it up as I went along, little things like precise definitions when it comes to man-made traditions seldom deter me.
Three things DID stand in my way though.
- I still had no idea what to give up,
- I am still struggling the effects of the Great Life Wreck and while I’m progressing well, I still have deep dips in the faith EKG, so I wasn’t even sure what prayer focus to ADD,
- and, I had all these thoughts several days into the Lent season.
Then it occurred to me: I could simply give up the fear, the doubt, the faithlessness, for Lent, and specifically focus on the opposite of it for 40 days!
This did not, alas, provide a time machine back to the start of Lent.
Should I just jump in for the time left?
Do a 40 day fast unrelated to Lent?
Somehow I hated to give up doing my experiment for Lent, now that I had something REAL to devote Lent to.
One of the interesting effects of my day job, which is in a multi-national, multi-denominational, Christian organisation, is that I have to regularly determine not just when ‘regular’ Easter is, but also Orthodox Easter.
They rarely coincide exactly, and one must take that into consideration when planning meetings. It therefore occurred to me that Orthodox Easter was probably preceded by Orthodox LENT.
It was! And Orthodox Lent hadn’t started yet.
So, that is the long story of how a strictly non-denominational Irish American girl ended up observing Orthodox Lent.
When I went through the recent Great Life Wreck, my faith took a solid hit.
This really shocked me, because faith has always be the strongest thing about me, and I’d weathered a dozen storms FAR worse than the Great Life Wreck without a faith related qualm. To now suddenly be doubting and confused over something relatively trivial… this did not sit well!
Not that I ever doubted who God is, or what he’s capable of – I am blessed that those seem to be unshakable in me.
But my sense that he would lead me, that I’d get the message right, that he even CARED where or how I wandered; those got shaken in ways I never would have dreamed possible.
And while I’ve gotten largely back on track, I still have my days. One day I found myself, for all intents and purposes, wondering if thinking well of God was a sinful attitude! THAT is a point where you know you have officially lost it.
So, for Lent this year I am giving up doubting, and negative views of God.
Odd? Almost certainly, though I do not actually know. But odd suits me.
And since my approach here is that it’s not just what you give up, but what you put in its place, I’m using any moments of uncertainty I run into, to remember his promises about what he thinks of me and wants for me, and focusing on the rational truths of my dreams and goals and desires – not the least being that HE designed them into me.
I’m meditating on various verses that I find encouraging and praying for light, and help, with the most sincere trust that is within my current capacity.
And I am expecting transformation and restoration … which is what Easter is all about anyway.