I am not a particularly religious person. I grew up Baptist, but my family moved to the Episcopal church when I was about 12 years old. Those two faiths are important to my personal development, but I no longer affiliate myself with either. I keep my spiritual thoughts and beliefs to myself, for the most part. I offer everyone the same respect that I expect. None of what I believe is up for debate with anyone. That’s not to say I don’t continually question my beliefs. I do. I firmly believe the line my dad told me when I was a kid, “If your faith cannot withstand questioning, then it is high time you questioned your faith.”
Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Do you observe Lent? If you’re not Christian, does your belief system have a similar observance? I know that many religions have periods of prayer and fasting. I have always been interested in the roles these observances play in our lives – physical and spiritual – and how they came into being. Even though I no longer go to church (at least not the kind that meets in a building), I still observe many of the religious events throughout the year. I believe they serve a greater purpose than just following what has always been done. There’s a reason that each holiday falls when it does. And there is some kind of purpose that each fulfills that is beneficial. Throughout the millennia, religions have come and gone, holidays have come and gone, events and feast days and practices have come and gone. Those that we still observe are still here because they have a benefit for those who still participate.
I know there’s a lot of talk about what people do or don’t give up. For me, it’s not usually a matter of giving something up as it is of paying more attention. To me, Lent has always been a time of quiet reflection. A time to sorta clean up the messier aspects of my life. In modern life, we have made indulgence, laziness, numbness, ego-centrism, and entitlement, among other things, the norm. “You deserve a treat today” is no longer an ad campaign, it’s a mantra. “I got mine,” may not be an acceptable statement, but just because you don’t hear people say it doesn’t mean their actions don’t imply it.
I don’t know where this Lent will take me. I’m just starting out on this road. My intention is to learn to sit with unpleasant emotions and thoughts, instead of numbing them with alcohol or food. My intention is to push myself a little out of my comfort zone, to try a little harder to get that workout in, or cook a healthier meal, or spend more time sitting quietly rather than watching something silly on television or playing a dumb game on the computer. My intention is to reconnect with the me that lives inside. I suspect she has something important to tell me.