on Lent, ambivalence, and self-denialI grew up in a home that strictly observed Lent in an Anglo-Catholic way. Fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, until after services. No meat on Wednesday or Friday in Lent (exceptions made for my birthday, which always falls in Lent). Lots of extra church services as a family (my mother is a church organist, so there we were). I was always made to go to confession before Easter once I was old enough to be confirmed, and there was a checklist the priest handed out to us in confirmation class that we were supposed to use (the only thing I remember out of that was we weren't supposed to get our fortunes told.) Mostly I remember that the checklist didn't really seem to apply to me, that the stuff I felt unhappy about wasn't on there. Mostly I used to confess that I didn't clean up my room and I talked back to my parents.
As I got older I started to understand sin in different ways--that not being authentic and true was a sin, being wrapped up in oneself, either feeling one was so much better than others, or so much less than others was also sin, not being honest about one's call was sin, not speaking up against injustice or squishing one's creativity--all these things were sin and not on the checklist anywhere.
But this Lent I'm feeling that for me, personally, a return to some of the more traditional Lenten disciplines will be helpful. I'm going to not say much now, as I'm still working it out, but I'm aware of a need for some structure. Having worked on a lot of big emotional clutter over the past ten years, I'm finding now about material things which have a deep hold on me.
The difference for me is what is imposed versus what is chosen. I'm really not sure how appropriate it is for children to fast, for a family to choose that for them. I'm grateful for the rhythms of the liturgical year that were a part of my life growing up, and are deeply woven into my faith life now, but I felt like I had so little choice and control in my life in so many ways, that was just another piece of it. Frankly, I also can have low blood sugar and I'm not crazy about parents making choices like these which affect their children's physical well-being. (Choosing not to have desserts as a family is another thing entirely. . .I'm talking about fasting from meals).
I'd love to hear about other's experiences of Lent and self-denial, in comments or on other blogs.