March 9, 2011

it begins in ashes

There is something so gritty and tangible about the season of Lent, I am figuring out. The grey smudges on Ash Wednesday and the dim purples attributed to this time really reflect what's outside my window (although it is snowing thickly right now, but that's bound to turn to rain in the next 24 hours) and most of my surroundings as I move through my day. This time of year is tough; March is in like the crankiest of lions. Winter has worn me down and run its course, turned grey and dingy everywhere I look, but it's too soon for the earth to really come to life.

This moody, bleak setting is just about right for ideas like fasting and preparation and lament and 40 days in the wilderness. The sunlight and first day of spring and greens are on their way, and I have that to look forward to, but there's no shortcut through this season to get to the next, both spiritually and physically. So much of the Bible is about people waiting, preparing, anticipating. It's probably the kind of thing you could write a huge paper on (I am around my PhD student husband too much), all the ways and reasons and unbelievable lengths of time people hoped and prayed and waited. So much emphasis is on the preparation itself, sometimes more than the anticipated event, and that's something I haven't considered in past Lenten seasons. Like this time of year, I have passively watched the days slide by without participating or preparing.

So, I want to participate. The tangible side is straightforward; the tradition of sacrificing something or simplifying for the 40 days of Lent is familiar. In my case, it will be processed sugar, which my teeth will be happy about, but the rest of me, not so much. (This is scary for me to go ahead and write down, because I never do it here- I don't really talk about goals or challenges or commitments to whoever's listening, because then suddenly I'm ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEM. That is terrifying.) It's a comfort and a distraction, but not really healthy for the long term, and I think sugar could represent other parts of me that I use for comfort and distraction, but might be stunting my growth.

I had my last Shamrock Shake yesterday (now that they have shown up in Canada again!). How my heart and soul will participate is yet to be seen. I hope to be changed.

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