Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Life we're Lent

Today is the first day of Lent.  If I told you I believe the observance of Lent is some kind of commandment from on high, I'd be lying.  I can't find any kind of axiomatic instructions on this particular topic in The Manual of Christian Living, if you know what I mean.

And yet.

And yet, I discovered, back in 2005 -- a particularly miserable year of my life -- that it was observing the sabbath that kept me sane.  To this day, I turn off my computer Saturday night (after the obligatory Prairie Home Companion observance), and I don't turn it back on until Sunday night.  Not a perfect sabbath, but at least an internet sabbath.  The e-world seems to survive without me present, and in return, I revive while disconnected.  It's good to rewire my brain toward a world where email and the blogosphere takes a back seat to church, to books, to the NY Times Crossword puzzle, and even to a bit of nature.  Oh, yeah, and my family.

And as far as bad habits go, 40 days and 40 nights seems to be a particularly appropriate time for subduing them.  So each year for Lent, I think hard about the way my connection to this goshdarned material world is controlling me, rather than the other way around.  Some years, I decide I'm really fine just as I am -- not a particularly Christian conclusion.  (Truth is, if I have an inferiority complex, it's not as good as other peoples'.*)
* I shamelessly stole this joke from Garrison Keillor.
But for the same reason that I worry about my things owning me rather than the other way around, Lent gives me a chance to worry about whether my habits and addictions overwhelm the rest of my life.  About ten years ago, I decided my quest for caffeine was one of these unreasonable addictions.  I gave up coffee for Lent.  The most embarrassing thing that happened was when I overslept and missed a class I was supposed to teach . . . a class that started at 3 p.m..  I think that proves the point.

This season of repentance seems to me (ignorant as I am of theological history) to be a modern, Christian version of Yom Kippur, the Jewish observance of atonement.  The event that shocked me into an observance of Lent wasn't a Catholic or other Christian act. It was my colleague, a man I adore, coming to me at the beginning of Yom Kippur, and begging me to forgive him for any way he might have offended me.  Really, it should have been the other way around.  He is one of the most perfect men that I know, and his plea for forgiveness rattles around in my head to this day.

This year, I'm doing my best to renounce whiskey during Lent.  I drink uber-cheap rot-gut whiskey.  My husband, who loves me dearly, obligingly purchases the cheapest glog he can find.  It's not a financial worry that makes me step back -- it's my mother's breast cancer and her losing battle with Alzheimers.  It's my own delight in a glass (or two, or three) at night.  It's my students' academic difficulties, often alcohol-related.  Forty days with no alcohol.  And forty nights, too.  Dang.

If I've offended you this past year, I ask for your forgiveness.

1 comment:

  1. You can do it!!
    I've decided to give up coffee for Lent.
    40 days and 40 nights will go by in the blink of an eye.