The season of Lent in the liturgical calendar has always stood out as important in my book. As a child, it was the dreaded time we were forced to give up something we valued, such as candy. It was a terrible season, and I tried my best to make it through by giving up brussel sprouts instead. Frozen, out of the bag, straight into boiling water, style brussel sprouts. They were hideous, and my mother served them for dinner. So I quite piously refused them on my plate for 46 days each and every year. Lent is technically 40 days, which allows one to exclude Sundays, but I always felt that was cheating, taking a break each week, especially when it involved olive balls of sludge.
Fast forward to today, and my family has been practicing Lent for several years. Amazingly, the simple act of practicing Lent as a child translated into a deeper connection with my faith as an adult. And even though I dreaded the season as a girl, saved only by the ability to escape slimy vegetables, as a woman and mother I cherish this time to refocus on my faith and refocus our guidance with our children. Some years have been more meaningful than others, some easier, some incredibly difficult, but always important even in some small way.
Last year was the only year I remember not participating. Looking Ash Wednesday in the face and refusing to try. But I was also helping to nurse my dying mother and giving her up was more than I could handle. Watching her deteriorate and my father lose his sole mate was more sacrifice than I had signed on for ever. Even the simple act of refusing meat on Fridays was too much. More than I could remember. Losing my mother was an experience in drowning from grief and resilience and joy all tumbled together. I spent time with and saw people I missed dearly, death bringing those together near and far, and yet I lost one of my rocks. So while I didn’t get angry at God, I figured He understood my apathy towards that particular Lenten season. Besides, He and I were on close speaking terms. He was good with me.
And so now, here we are. Ash Wednesday. It is that time to give up and give outwardly; focus on our relationship with Christ, with God, with our Holy Spirit residing in us. The kids have been involved in planning each Lenten season, oftentimes being the deepest thinkers and most diligent in their Lenten practice. This amazes me, given my childhood track record. As a family, we’ve given up meat on Fridays, inhumanely raised meat completely, just pork, unnecessary shopping, and anger towards each other. We have practiced disciplines, such as writing, drawing out daily prayers, making stations of the cross, and on and on.
This year is no different, except that the boys are getting older. Each wants to dictate his own Lenten exercise. For Key, we are to eat at the table as a family once daily. Time where we talk to each other, discuss issues, debate thoughts, is valuable to him and he misses it. Truth be told, we all miss it, and I am grateful to him in claiming this one. For Kelly, and also Key, he is to practice his banjo each day. Kelly’s music brings him joy, and he wants to focus on it. Key has agreed that practicing violin each day would benefit him as well. All of these disciplines are worthy Lenten exercises.
And for me? Well, I am giving up Walmart. I am giving up the big box super giant that makes me feel the need to shower after shopping. Local businesses will be seeing me more often as I try to accomplish tasks, such as oil changes and buying Triscuits, without Walmart as a crutch. Walmart stirs up emotions that I cannot clarify, such as guilt and stress and yet relief of its convenience. Is it all bad? Does it serve a purpose in a small town community? Is it the evil cause for downtown’s current demise? Can I find everyday items elsewhere without driving thirty minutes to the next town over? These are the questions Huffpost articles regularly tackle, and I will be researching answers for the York community for the next 46 days. By ignoring Walmart, I can readjust my lens in search of local sources for my everyday needs.
How does this relate to my spiritual practice and my relationship with Christ?
AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ 31“The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
This is my humble attempt at loving my community. Care to join me?