Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Of Lent and waking up

With Lent just around the corner, I wanted to talk a little bit about how we plan to observe it and what that will look like for us.  (The above is Botticelli's rendition of the Temptation of Christ.)

Let me be clear by saying that I am 29 years old, and have been a Christian my entire life.  But for 27 of those years, I was ignorant of 99% of the Church Calendar.  My church growing up, and the church I attended up until a few years ago, lit the Advent candles each December, and observed Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  So imagine my surprise when I discovered that Advent, Good Friday, and Easter are all part of a much bigger series of observances.

Our current church (which is part of the RCA denomination) recognizes the various components of the Liturgical Year, including Ash Wednesday and Lent.  I still remember the first Ash Wednesday service I attended there, where I received the ash on my forehead.  Which always reminds me of a particular Wednesday back in my freshman year of college when I could NOT figure out why I kept seeing people around campus with dirty faces.



Yes, I was that ignorant.

Anyway, I've fallen in love with the various special services that we attend and with the Church Calendar.  Historical Christianity is so FULL and RICH.  There is incredible depth, beauty, and complexity to be found there, and some amazing tools for us on our journey with God.  I'm just beginning to explore it but am loving what I'm finding.

I read something recently that talked about how whatever we do for Lent should be making us into a better person, that it shouldn't just be some arbitrary sacrifice of our favorite type of candy where we get right back to it once Lent is over.  SO, after giving it a bit of thought I decided that for Lent this year, I am going to--gulp--get up by 7 am each weekday morning.

Do you hear crickets too?

I am NOT a morning person.  I have NEVER been a morning person.  (You are more than welcome to contact my parents, past roommates, and husband for verification of this.)  I typically roll out of bed around 8 am.  And even then, I don't like getting up.  It's a very slow process for me.  AND, I typically only drink decaffeinated coffee, so I don't even have that to fall back on!

But I HATE how I always get started on my day so late.  I don't like always feeling behind, and feeling like lunchtime sneaks right up on me, and I always end up showering in the afternoon and by that time, really, what is the point of getting dressed?  Yet I have horrible self control and it's just really hard for me to get out of bed when I don't HAVE to (aka before Mary's screaming for me from her room.)

So I'm going to try this experiment.  Up by 7.  Hoping it will help my day and transform what I do around here.  Hoping it'll be better for me and better for my family.  It will be challenging but I'm going to give it a go.  Maybe then we can actually make it back to weekday Mass from time to time, and be more prepared for spontaneous outings in general.  Maybe then I can get errands run AND housework done.  More time for Bible reading and prayer.  The possibilities are endless.

This will also require more self-discipline on the other end of my day.  When I'm late getting dinner on the table, and the kids go to bed later, I end up staying up later to get time with Kevin and hang out in a kid-free environment.  So I'm hoping that having them all tucked in no later than 8 pm will remedy that problem.  We'll see. 

 To me, the Church Calendar is all about the rhythms of life.  And it's far from being empty and devoid of meaning.  Our every-day-lives revolve around routine and remembrance and observance, and it seems such a shame to ignore the very things that Christians have observed, worldwide, through the ages.  We are participating in something so much bigger than ourselves, and what an amazing gift God has given us in His Church.  Again, I've only just reached the tip of the iceberg but even that has offered such amazing perspective.

Maybe Lent seems to you, because it used to for me, like a completely unnecessary and un-beneficial thing to do.  Well, we recently we had a conversation with some wonderful new friends over dinner about the historical rootedness (or lack thereof) of the various faith systems.  (Don't you have these types of conversations with your dinner guests?  Okay maybe that's just us.  And our friends.  Who are awesome by the way.  And who hopefully enjoy theology enough that they didn't think we were weird for asking so many questions.)  This is something I had not given any thought to prior to about four years ago.  And I've been thinking of it more and more as time goes on.  The Bible itself, afterall, is a collection of very-old-documents that are historical in nature (along with being inspired by God, of course!)  And to this day Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican, Presbyterian, Reformed, and Methodist believers observe Lent.  (It was actually first rejected in the 16th century by Anabaptists who, in good faith, claimed it was a Roman invention.  But now it is believed, from various ancient documents, that it actually did NOT originate in Rome, and that it goes back quite a ways.  To apostolic times.  Which of course no one can PROVE, but no one can disprove it either, and there is evidence to that end.)

Thus I have come to believe that there can be great, inestimable value in something precisely because it has been handed down.  That there is a great, mysterious, beautiful connectedness between my faith and your faith and the faith of the apostles.  That when I am participating in something that ancient Christians did, and Christians worldwide are currently doing, and that Christians in the future will continue to do, all in the name of Jesus, that there is amazing joy and grace and even power in that.  So, so beautiful.  And potentially life-changing too.

So.  Lent.  Up by 7 am.  Possibly really grumpy.  Definitely really tired.  Stay tuned, as I'm sure I'll have some updates.  Maybe even a photo or two of me in my exhausted, angry stupor.  Just kidding about the anger.  Sort of.  :)

And jitters be darned, maybe it's time to pick up some of that regular, caffeinated coffee.


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