Lent 2011 is approaching.
On Wednesday, March 16th, Day One of a 40-day period of Lent starts, signalling for us who choose, the start of a journey of the soul. Giving up something we like, something worthy of sacrifice, is always worth doing.
Because it bears the “peaceful fruit of righteousness.” In chapter 12 of The Book of Hebrews, verse 11 says
All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
And eminent Christian author Frederick Buechner writes
In many cultures there is an ancient custom of giving a tenth of each year’s income to some holy use. For Christians, to observe the forty days of Lent is to do the same thing with roughly a tenth of each year’s days. After being baptized by John in the River Jordan, Jesus went off alone into the wilderness where he spent forty days asking himself the question of what it meant to be Jesus.
During Lent, Christians are supposed to ask one way or another what it means to be themselves…to answer questions like this is to begin to hear something not only of who you are but of both what you are becoming and what you are failing to become. It can be pretty depressing business all in all, but if sackcloth and ashes are at the start of it, something like Easter may be at the end.
A modern American Benedictine nun, Sister Joan Chittister, writes in her book The Rule of Benedict: Insight for the Ages:
Lent is the time for trimming the soul and scrapping the sludge off a life turned slipshod. Lent is about taking stock of time, even religious time. Lent is about exercising the control that enables us to say no to ourselves so that when life turns hard of its own accord we have the stamina to yes to its twists and turns with faith and hope….
Lent is the time to make new efforts to be what we say we want to be.
Recently I ended a 40-day fast of Facebook, which you can read about here. That might seem frivolous, but it is on par with other indulgences others cannot live without, like a morning cuppa, a favourite sport, a daily treat like television or music.
In that seemingly frivolous abstinence of an online social medium, I got hit by the truth about my weaknesses, my self-talk which tended to perceive reality differently, and a deeper appreciation of true friendships in my life.
The recent experience of staying offline was a rollercoaster ride; fortunately more thrills than spills.
I’m going again.