A bit of a community exploration of the practices of this season
t the beginning of this season of Lent, we did some teaching around how these days might be framed for people, encouraging folks to find a pattern that would be helpful for them. Last Saturday in the Winnipeg Free Press, a few of our members were actually featured in an article written about Lenten disciplines, and we thought it would be useful to expand that conversation a bit. We put out the word through e-mail, that we’d be interested in seeing what and how people were doing this year, and what follows is a bit of a summary.
One of the households which was featured in the Free Press article is making a practice of stopping for a bit at 9:00pm each evening, to pray a prayer from Teresa of Avila. In a nice, domestic touch, the prayer is posted up on the refrigerator door.Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours, Yours are the eyes through which is to look out Christ’s compassion to the world; Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good; Yours are the hands with which he is to bless humanity now. Amen.
Someone replied to our e-mail by saying that while “calling it a discipline would be a bit of a misnomer,” she’s undertakena a challenge to do some letter writing. “The idea is to daily write a letter, not an email, an actual letter/note, to people who have played a significant role in my life. It’s a bit of touching base, as well as sharing a bit of why they’re important to me. Some have been people that have been around me for virtually all my life, others more recently. Some I have deep engagement and friendship with, some less so. Some have been significant because of the ways they’ve impacted my kids, rather than me, but it all hits home in the same way. I am shaped daily by those who surround me, and this is one way I’m working on recognizing some of those sculptors.”
Another wrote that, “I have over the past couple of years decided that during Lent I don’t go and buy a coffee at Tim’s – as it is close to work and many of my colleagues do – mainly because during this time they also have their “roll up the rim” and I’ve realized that this “cup” can become an addiction – everyone has to go everyday because they just might win… I’ve also realized I don’t really like Tim Horton’s coffee and I’m much better off without it year round. I have in the past used the money that would be spent on a cup of coffee to support a more worthwhile cause.”
One person sent a message admitting that while he has not himself been observing Lent this year, he recalled “how a fellow staff person from when I worked at Canadian Mennonite University claimed that he observed Lent: He says he ‘gives up caring for Lent’… hmmm…”
In an interesting parallel, we recently heard of a young church community in Toronto called the Jeremiah Project, that had “given up church for Lent.” What that really meant was that they have been meeting as a congregation outside of the walls of their shared church space, opting instead for a places like restaurants, a local bakery, even an alley way. Not only that, but the locale was only sent out via Twitter that same morning, giving it a decidedly clandestine feel.
Another person wrote that, “For Lent I have decided to resist spending money on anything other than food (and I am doing my best to limit my spending there, too). It has been interesting to note just how often I want to purchase things, and equally interesting to realize that I am doing just fine without them. Becoming less of a consumer and more of a simple, contented soul has long been a goal of mine — it feels good to have this season of intentional fasting.”
In a completely different vein, one person is using this time to challenge her driving habits, and to try to practice what she calls “gentle driving” habits throughout the Lent. She wrote, “I have to confess that on more than one occasion over the many years that I’ve possessed a driver’s license, that I’ve shown a fairly strong tendency to engage in a more aggressive style of driving when I’ve found myself in the middle of circumstances ranging from traffic backups to sharing the road with a wide-range of annoying drivers. Not a competitive person by nature, I have become more aware of late of my often less-than-gentle responses behind the wheel. So, in the days leading up to Lent, I thought I would to attempt to loosen my grip on the wheel, so to speak.”
In evaluating how that “gentle driving is going,” she continued: “Well, to be honest, it has been no-less-than a fascinating exercise each day, I have had to be extra-attentive and intentional – in a very conscious way – about putting my driving energies into the ‘gentle’ gear in the following ways:
- Allowing for, and building in time, to leave the house a few minutes early, rather than a few minutes late which has often been my habit in the past.
- Focusing my attention on the driver of the car, rather than the car itself, has helped to bring a strangely human component to my travels, and has created a kind of odd comraderie with my fellow navigators on the road, I guess.
- Finally, by acknowledging with a simple nod or a smile, the drivers who pull up beside me at red lights has helped to foster in me a more gentle mindset and a less aggressive outlook on the road.”
“Though not without its challenges and occasional setbacks, this gentle driving practice has been a refreshing change to the agitation and stress I often feel when I step out of my car. So, for me, this Lent, ‘the way has been made by driving’ and it has been immensely instructive on a personal level, to say the least.”
Not surprisingly, food and meal practices figure in this season of Lent: “I am doing a general fast from sweets and ‘extras’- so no sugar on my oatmeal or in my tea and of course no chocolate or dessert. This isn’t super hard for me, but it has succeeded in creating a space that is distinctly different than the rest of the year, when I can have whatever I want whenever I want it. I usually do a proper fast for one day a week during Lent, but due to health problems this has been making me sick and I’ve had to consider the fact that I cannot physically do a full fast. In a way this has been more humbling than going hungry all day because I’ve realised that I cannot even fast without God’s help! I was almost embarrassed the day I did a fruit-vegetable-and-peanut-butter fast because I felt like I was cheating. In conversation with my mentor, however, I’ve realised that my empty stomach is not actually what God requires of me; it is my humble submission. I realised that I needed to let go of the pride that caused me to want to do something that wasn’t good for me ‘for God’ and trust that God sees the heart. Every year during Lent I choose something that I think I’ll focus on and learn during the period of fasting, but every year God has something else in mind and I learn something new about him, about myself, and about life in community.”
On a rather different note, someone offered the following: “For Lent this year, I decided to actually participate. This is the first year that I have ever decided to fast from anything for Lent, mostly because I’ve often seen people who do so give up something that’s easy enough to give up. I could never think of anything to give up that would be real for me. But this year was different. I decided to give up movies and fast food. This would be important because I’m passionate about movies. I have well over 150 DVDs and approximately 30 blu ray discs. I won’t go into it more, but let’s just say I LOVE movies. When it comes to fast food…what can I say? A good burger or pizza is incredible.”
And how is that going for this movie-lover with the soft spot for good fast food? He continues, “So I’ve got a couple of weeks left and things have been difficult at times. I will admit: I’ve screwed it up a couple of times. The first Saturday during Lent I watched 45 minutes of Seabisbuit on TV and didn’t realize until later in the day what I had done. So, pray and move on. But here’s the flip side. As some may already know, Sundays during Lent can actually be a break from whatever you’re fasting from. Because of this, Sundays have been such a blessing for me because I watch a few movies and maybe have a burger from my favorite spot. I have found an elevated appreciation for movies and am even more grateful for them than I ever have been. And, to top it all off, I have found that any time I messed up God has been quick to allow me to get up and start again. It may seem very small, but I’ve learned a lot about God’s grace during this time and that there are gifts and blessings that we have in our lives that I had been taking for granted.”
Finally, in that same Free Press article that featured the fridge door prayer practice, another saint ben’s person talked about the nature of doing this business of Lent:
“We all know that spring is coming and it’s going to be green and beautiful but we have to deal with the much and slush (before); For me, Lent is about pulling back before you jump forward.”
And that is a pretty great image for why we would bother doing this in the first place.
Have something to add, in terms of your own practice or experience? Just add a comment, and we’ll include it in the conversation.