Happy Half Lent!

3 Reasons and 5 Ways to get into the second half

 

Elaine taught me a new word this week: laetare. Laetare Sunday is the fourth Sunday in the season of Lent, marking the mid-way point. Surprisingly (to me), it means “rejoice,” and from what I gather, it’s to be a pause or reprieve from the fasts of Lent with an eye towards Easter. Other words for the day are “Mothering Sunday,” and “Refreshment Sunday.” Sounds nice. I guess it’s like the water station or massage table at the midway mile of a marathon (do they have those? I wouldn’t know).

 

Anyways, it got me thinking about the first half of Lent. How I started off the season like I do the new year - with anticipation that it could be good, with a sense of what to resist (or fast), and with the memory that things don’t always go as planned. And my fast hasn’t gone as planned. I feel a bit overwhelmed with just life chores and all the possible time investments. The weather was really cold and then really warm; some of the cherry blossoms have bloomed and fallen, others haven’t at all.

 

I don’t want to give up or write-off the season just because here at the halfway point I’m not sure what to make of it. I wondered if some of you might be in the same place (?), so I wrote out a few reasons why we should do the second half of the marathon, even if we are not where we thought we’d be, and even if we never started it at all.

 

3 Reasons

  1. Lent - of all seasons - is about starting again:

    Lent isn’t about success, it’s about faithfulness. It isn’t about doing it right, but about not being able to do it right, and realizing again that we need a Savior. I wish I prepared a little bit more for Lent so that I had a keepable plan, but I didn’t. Here I am, halfway through the wilderness, needing God to point the way forward. So be it.
  2. Lent’s not over yet:

    Every year we observe Lent again, we learn how to wait for Easter, we fast before we feast, we face Christ’s cry of abandonment, we hear crickets on Holy Saturday, and we hope to wake to New Life on Easter. I don’t know how it (the Christian liturgical calendar) works, and I don’t know how the paschal mystery works, but I know it works on me whether I can articulate it all or not. It’s worth paying attention and showing up for the last half of Lent, for Holy Week, for an Easter feast, even if we weren’t there for Ash Wednesday. It’s not all or nothing. Christ saved us while we were still sinners, not after we finally got it all together and were there from the start.

  3. The alternative - writing Lent off or writing ourselves off - isn’t good for anyone (or necessary!):

    Lent, like all of life, is a group project. It matters that we show up - as a testament to our own lives and to each other’s. We have a hard enough time as it is claiming our own dignity, we don’t need another reason to be disqualified from the life of the church, from the yearly Christian seasons. What’s the alternative anyways? Laying low and waiting it out, thinking we’ll do better next time, we’ll come next time, we’ll come later, we’ll wait until we’re ready, or better, or know more, or have more? That’s an illusion that keeps us stuck (telling myself as much as anyone else). And it’s boring and depressing. Lent is a time for that famous axiom: If not now, when? If now here, where? If not with these people, then with whom? (Last part my addition.)

 

5 Ways

Lent has also got me thinking about some of the creative ways to engage the season that might not be as typical as sugar or social media fasts (as good as those are). Here are a few ideas in case you’re looking for some inspiration:

  1. Go on an Artist date:

    It’s easy to think of discipline as getting rid of enjoyable things, like coffee, or Netflix or sugar or alcohol. But what about embracing “enjoyment” as a discipline for the last half of Lent? Looking for opportunities to do something just for the sake of enjoying it, and not for any ulterior purpose? In The Artist’s Way Julia Cameron recommends a weekly “artist date” with oneself - a book at the beach, a solo museum walk, laying in a sun patch, etc. It’s a little cheesy but Lent made me think of them as “Artist dates,” i.e. with Artist God in God’s good creation.
  2. Suffer with Christ in small ways:

    I can get all inspired by the big “S” suffering with Christ ideas that I miss out on all the small opportunities throughout my day to connect little inconveniences or longings with Christ. Similarly, I can have plans to do a big “F” fast (like sugar once and for all, or 24 hours without a meal), and miss out on connecting a hunger pang with Christ. What if, whenever I had a small suffering, I connected it with Christ, instead of indefinitely preparing to big “S” suffer with Christ? For example:
    1. (Trouble sleeping) → I’m restless with you, Christ.

    2. (Sad) → I’m sad with you, Christ.

    3. (Yawn) → I’m tired with you, Christ.

    4. (Shiver) →  I’m cold with you, Christ.

    5. (Hunger pang) → (to myself) I’m hungry with you, Christ.

  3. Reframe embarrassment:

    I recently  flew from Toronto to Vancouver and nodded off in my middle seat, doing at least a dozen of those mid-sleep-head-jerks. How embarrassing! In the moment I thought that surely I was the only one who noticed, but when I was fully awake I realized my seat-mates definitely saw me. These little embarrassing moments - nodding off on the plane, walking out of the bathroom with toilet paper stuck on our shoe, realizing our zipper is down or that we have spinach in our teeth - can remind us of our finitude, our creaturliness, our limitedness. Like 4 year olds that squeal in the elevator, “I farted!” (weekly :{), what if we consciously embraced the little embarrassing moments that inevitably happen as very Lenten appropriate reminders of our limits, dustiness, and dependence?
  4. Stay bored:

    I’ve always kind of proudly said that I could never get bored. I think of myself as always overwhelmed, always not doing everything I want to do, always inspired by some project I would work on if only I had time. That’s maybe partly true, but my phone has taught me that I am definitely not above boredom. Even if my mind doesn't think I’m a bore-able person, my scrolling thumb betrays otherwise. I’ve developed a dread of boredom through my habit of checking my phone or social media whenever there’s a dull moment, or when I’m waiting in line, or on hold, or don’t know what to do with myself. One idea for Lent is to embrace those lulls when they fall on us as a gift to be received rather than a space to be filled - like going to the bathroom without a phone (!), sitting on the bus and people watching, waiting in line at the bank with just a smile on our face, etc. Lent is a good time to sanction any moment that could otherwise be “multitasked” as good-in-itself, a tangible expression of the waiting and watching that is Lent.
  5. Just decide to come to stuff:

    If all else fails, I think just coming to Big Table, Neighborhood Table, Good Friday and Easter is worthwhile in itself. Gathering as a church (even if we don’t know how we feel about the Church) and being “submitted to” the liturgies of eating together, singing together, praying together, passing the peace together, small-talking together, smiling at the babies together, and saying hellos and goodbyes together does something to us below the level the of our cognition, “under the hood,” so to speak. We don’t have to feel something in worship or to understand everything about worship for it to be forming us and healing us, slowly but surely. So if nothing else (and if it doesn't cause you pain or shame or undue confusion) just come to all the stuff and see.

Ok, those are some midway Lent thoughts. Happy Laetare week! And see you at stuff.

:) Vanessa