What I learned from Lent

I’ve never been very good at observing (celebrating? commemorating? participating in?) Lent. Discipline and I don’t really get along well, a relationship I keep meaning to reconcile, but well, life.

I’m terrible at persevering and following through and any time I’ve tried to give up something for the 40 days of Lent I either end up miserable, forgetful or failing. Ritual for the sake of ritual doesn’t interest me so there have been years where I’ve virtually ignored Lent because I just didn’t know what to do with it.

This year, we belong to a church that treats Lent differently than any other church we’ve been part of. For the weeks of Lent, we partner with a church in Chicago to reflect on, and inform ourselves about, a justice issue in our world. This year, it was about incarceration. Here’s what I wrote at the start of Lent.

And here’s what I can tell you now: I did not give my whole self to Lent. I read the devotionals sporadically. I wore a button … until I lost it. And while I was moved and angered and saddened by what I learned about the prison system in our country, it didn’t cause any action on my part.prison button

I mean, I wrote the blog post, I read a book about women coming out of prison and the struggles they face, and I signed some online petitions and sent some e-mails to congressmen whose votes can change the way things are done.

But does any of that matter?

What I learned during Lent, what I seem to always learn during Lent, is that I am selfish. And distracted. And busy with a lot of things that don’t matter.  I’m willing to do a little but maybe not a lot. I’m good at talking and writing about issues but when it comes to acting or doing, not so much. I don’t beat myself up too much because that doesn’t do any good, either, so I’m left with questions.

What can I do? What else can I do? What more can I do? And how?

Wearing the button on my jacket was a huge step for me. It meant that people would look at me a little longer than normal, that they might engage me in conversation, and I am more the kind of person who wants to walk quietly through her life and not draw anyone’s attention for good or bad.

Wearing a button marked me, in a way, as some sort of social justice freak or religious nut. At least, that’s what I would have thought about someone wearing the button if that someone wasn’t me.

In truth, I want to call attention to injustice. I want to stand up and fight for things that matter. That is my heart. But I am not brave. Or courageous. Or loud. Some days I have to gather enough courage to walk into the grocery store (and then spend the rest of the day reading books to recharge from the emotional toll being in public takes on me.) I want you to care about things that are important but I don’t want you to think bad of me for caring about them.

What I learned from Lent is that there are parts of me that still have to die and be transformed. Parts of me I still need to sacrifice to God’s redemption.

Now that it is Easter, a season of celebration and feasting, a time of rejoicing for God’s kingdom has come to earth, it is easy to forget Lent. Those things I learned, those passionate feelings I felt, I could compartmentalize them into the 40 days of Lent and move on with my happy, comfortable life.

Or.

I could revisit and reflect and pray and learn more. The end of Lent doesn’t have to be the end of caring and justice and “on earth as it is in heaven” kind of living. It shouldn’t be the end, I think, but the beginning.

Lent reminds me that life is about more than me, that Jesus’ sacrifice was not for me alone, and that His redemption is for every day not just a few days or a single season.

I still don’t know what this means or looks like on a daily basis.

All I know is I don’t want to quit caring about prisoners because Lent is over.

I’m curious, does Lent carry over into Easter and the rest of the year for you? If so, how? If not, what would it look like for that to happen?

I’m asking myself the same questions.

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One thought on “What I learned from Lent

  1. Pingback: What One Person Learned During Lent This Year | Is Not This the Fast that I Choose?

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