Thursday, April 23, 2009

Lessons From Lent

Disclaimer:  This is a long post of my jumbled thoughts and it won't hurt my feelings if you don't read it.
I know Lent has been over for a while, but I am still trying to process everything that I learned this year from our "observance" of it.  Growing up I'm not sure I even knew what Lent was.  I didn't have any Catholic friends.  I didn't learn about it until college when I saw people walking around one Wednesday with dirty foreheads.  Even then it was something other faiths observed.  It wasn't until Taylor was in seminary that I really began to understand the significance of it in the season leading up to Easter.  My family always observed Advent before Christmas and there was a lot leading up to that special day.  However, Easter just sort of showed up.  It was appealing to me to try to celebrate the entire Easter season and not just one day.  For a few years I tried to give something up to help me focus - Dr. Pepper, some type of food.  It never seemed to make a huge difference so I sort of gave up on the idea of giving something up for Lent.  

Earlier this year Taylor told me about an article he had read about a group of Christians who gave up all excess spending for a year.  They only spent money on groceries, necessary clothes, and paying their bills.  It was such a great experience for them that they decided to do it for another year.  We talked about how hard that would be.  A few days later Taylor suggested we try doing something similar for the season of Lent.  I'm always up for a challenge, so I thought, "Why not?"  

So we did it - sort of.  We did cheat a little.  We have a huge playhouse and swing set in our back yard to prove it.  We did try though.  The play house wasn't supposed to be built until after Easter, but the free materials and the free labor were there and one thing led to another.  We bought gifts for people and filled the Easter baskets for the kids.  We could go out to eat for purposes of fellowship, like when we visited our friends in Waco, and we were fortunate to have some gift cards from Taylor's birthday.  However there was no driving through for fast food when we traveled.  Everything had to be brought in a cooler or bought at the grocery store.  There were no Sonic drinks at happy hour.  There were few breaks from cooking a meal in my kitchen.

What did I learn?  I'm extremely spoiled and self indulgent.  Instead of becoming more spiritual throughout the process I become grumpy.  I grew tired of coming up with meals. Even though I thought about those women in their huts in Ethiopia whom Taylor took pictures of and how they have to plant, grow, and prepare three meals a day with little variety, I still complained.  I learned that really giving stuff up is hard and that some of my happiness and peace is dependent on the ease of my life.  That has been eye opening for me.  

This past year I have watched a dear friend give up her life as a stay at home mom and go back to work due to the economy.  Things are more difficult for her - grocery shopping, cleaning, spending time with her girls, and yet she has done it with such grace and a positive attitude.  Could I give up my ordered and structured world quite as easily?  Is some of my peace and happiness tied up in my current life circumstances?

Just today I was dusting our shelves getting ready for friends to come over this evening and I ended up in tears as I sometime do. I know it is strange, I don't hate housework that much, but on those shelves are the picture of my friend Kim and the candle we burned at the Service of Remembrance at our church after we miscarried our first baby.  These were significant losses in my life. What if even more was taken from me as it has been from so many others?  Do I feel entitled to the relationships that are in my life?  Would I throw a fit if they were taken from me? Probably so, and I think that would be normal, but is my happiness and peace outside of even the most precious people in my life?

Yes, Lent was beneficial for me this year.  I took a good look at myself and see how far I still am from making Him my everything.  My peace is tied up in so much  more than Him.  I see how spoiled I am in comparison with all He gave up.  Maybe if we do it again next year I will have grown some.  I hope so.  I'm keeping on!


Julie Walker said...

Alyson, thanks for opening up and sharing that.I have always admired the people who gave things up for lent and didn't really have to. That was a great post- and not too long at all.

Carol/Hunna said...

The post was not too long. Thanks for giving me much to ponder.

TeamBortzfield said...

Beautifully written and straight from your heart, what a great post!

Tommy said...

Alyson thank you for making yourself vulnerable in your post and thanks for the "gut level" honesty. We all should be so introspective and authentic.