Good morning, friends! I greet you this foggy morning from the front lines of the Christian holy forty days of Lent. Today is Ash Wednesday, and it is a day on which some Christians (the liturgical ones who like their rituals good and ancient) go and get dirty on purpose in order to remember their own mortality, if only for a brief, brief moment.
Er, Lent is… what? Again?
So the modern take on Lent is that it’s a time of penitence, possibly a time to wallow in guilt, or possibly just a time to eat as much fried fish as you can personally ingest.
The original purpose of Lent is a bit different, though. (If you’re going to love on your ancient rituals, then know why on earth you do them, yo.) Ancient Christians took baptism super duper seriously. It was a commitment. A major commitment. More important than who you married. It often carried a death sentence which might or might not be carried out at the whim of the government.
Baptisms happened once a year. At Easter. So for forty days and forty nights before (plus one week for other shenanigans), those who were being prepared for baptism would study and pray and get ready for their entire life to change.
And so in support of those getting baptized in your community, you might join with them in study and prayer to go deeper into your faith and give God even more elbow room to change your life for the better.
Is THAT what Lent is?
And the process of undergoing study and prayer which might also include fasting of various forms, morphed into the idea of giving up the eating of meat (the most expensive item on the grocery bill, even in antiquity) sometimes or always through Lent so that the money saved could be offered to the poor, because what’s the point of just working on what’s inside of us if we don’t do something good for someone else, too?
And then we see the slow slide into just giving things up without taking the savings and donating them, and into giving up not the most expensive item, but the item we most desire as a way to punish ourselves, and then we’re giving up chocolate, caffeine, or sex for Lent, failing spectacularly by week two, and then walking away from the whole endeavor on week three.
This has to do with me and my bad habits, how?
When we return to the original purpose of the season, it’s to set aside time for serious personal change, healthy change, the healthiest change you can possibly imagine and reach for, and specifically, change that God wants you to embrace. How do you know God wants you to embrace it? Because it’s the healthiest and kindest thing you can stand, and God wants the best for you, ergo, it is the next step God wills for you.
So this season, in the spirit of practicing what I preach, I started running again. I’m finally ready. The migraines have abated enough, and so I’m giving up my most precious commodity: healthy up-time. I’m spending anywhere from 30-60 minutes daily doing intentional, healthy, vigorous motion. Sometimes it will be running and walking. Sometimes it will be martial arts with benefit of heavy bag. Sometimes it may, in fact, be belly dancing. From 5:30-6:30 AM, smack in the middle of my prime writing hours, I’m going to move my butt instead. And for me, that’s the next step of emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical health that I’m ready for, and ready to be challenged by.
Today I began. I goaded my husband out of bed on his day off with the promise of peanut butter and cheese on crackers, put on all of the layers of specialized winter running gear that I have in abundance that has just taken up drawer space for the last several years, and had only a single brief moment during the first split of wondering what on God’s green earth I had just gotten myself into. And then it felt wonderful again.
Isn’t feeling wonderful a violation of Lent?
God doesn’t want us to be miserable. Not now. Not ever. Not for Lent. Not so Easter feels super special. God wants us to learn how to love, and in doing so remember what it is like to be like God.
So what is your plan for Lent? What is the next step that might be a bit challenging for you? Let me know in the comments. (And if you happen to be in the wilds of WNY today, stop by Trinity in Warsaw and I’ll give you ashes to go. I’ll be the one laying on her office floor, blogging, and playing the kazoo.)