Sunday evening we had some friends over for a "Lenten salon." After a tasty pork dinner flavored with invigorating conversation, we headed into the living room for a more "reflective" time focused on the season of Lent. It was soon apparent that for some, the traditional way of observing Lent (giving up something that you like) was not a particularly helpful practice. As one of my friends said, "For me, it seems like I've been in a desert place for so long, giving up something doesn't make any sense. I need more in my life, not less."

The comments reminded me of the years I decided to give up Advent so that I could celebrate Advent. The cookie baking, holiday entertaining, Christmas shopping and greeting cards stressed me out so much that the joy and peace of the holiday (gifts that were to be opened and used every day!) were crowded out in favor of...what, exactly?

I think that was part of the sentiment expressed in our living room. The death and resurrection of Christ is about life and that more abundantly. In making that our focus every day, we are entering the spirit of Lent - allowing the seed of God's love to ripen and flower in our lives. To think of Lent as only a time to give up something one likes for a period of time, to embrace suffering (albeit so small) or discipline for its own sake misses the mark. It's not that saying "no" is all that bad. It's only that we should be more interested in increasing the frequency of our saying "yes." 

I'm reminded of a song written by Darrel Evans:

I'm trading my sorrow
I'm trading my shame
I'm laying it down for the joy of the Lord

I'm trading my sickness
I'm trading my pain
I'm laying it down for the joy of the Lord

And we say yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord
Yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord
Yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord Amen

The same friend who spoke at the salon about her desert experiences had set up a meditation area in the corner of our living room. On it, she placed a piece of student art entitled "Sorrowing Madonna," (I cannot decipher the artist's name), a bowl of kosher salt, a plank with several hollowed out indentations, a basket and a pen and some paper. At one point in the evening she commented on the tears streaming down the Madonna's face and spoke about her own tears, and the reasons behind them. She encouraged us to take some time at the end of our evening and consider  what we might want to relinquish into God's care during this Lenten season. We wrote those down and placed the papers in the bowl. Finally, as a way of making this memory tactile, we took a little salt, and after tasing some, placed the rest in one of the indentations.

Giving things up is not always a bad idea, especially if it hinders our health, whether spiritual, physical or emotional. But we should receive something better in the process. Sacrifice in and of itself doesn't impart holiness, or even a better life. It is a means to an end, not the end itself.

One thing that I've learned through reading and blogging on Julian of Norwich, is that God is a God of more - more love, more grace, more comfort, more compassion, more freedom, more "blissful beholding." Say "no" if it's helpful. But let Lent encourage us to be about the "yes" - the "yes" to practices and beliefs that allow more of the God of love to fill us with Himself. Which is, after all, the truth we celebrate this coming weekend.
Aletheia Schmidt
4/19/2011 08:40:17 am

Oh yes--more and more and more and more. Wonderful!

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Abbie Getty
4/19/2011 10:14:28 am

A friend of mine who is a yogi wrote on her blog at the beginning of Lent about the experience she had a few years ago when she decided to add something for Lent instead of taking it away. Every day, she got up a half hr earlier than usual to meditate, do yoga, go for a run, read, or journal (etc). Essentially, she tried to do something each day that would be good for her heart and soul, something separate from the busy distracted life she was living at the time. I love that idea, of adding instead of taking away.

I've only been "doing Lent" for a few years because I wasn't raised in a tradition that took much notice of Lent. I try to give up something small that I feel I've been taking in in excess, and it makes me much more aware of what I'm eating each day and how I'm spending money, which is useful in several ways. I think next year, tho, I really want to add, whether I also take away or not. :>)

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4/20/2011 12:15:47 am

Abbie,
I love the example of your friend. And I like the idea of both taking away AND adding. Thanks for the comment.

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