Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Give it up

T W E N T Y - S I X - L E T T E R S
Closer to God. Closer to fine?
I'm trying to tell you something about my life
Maybe give me insight between black and white
The best thing you've ever done for me
Is to help me take my life less seriously, it's only life after all
Well darkness has a hunger that's insatiable
And lightness has a call that's hard to hear
I wrap my fear around me like a blanket
I sailed my ship of safety till I sank it, I'm crawling on your shore.

I took this photo of some little purple crocus just yesterday on Sligo Creek. These are the first flowers to emerge announcing the arrival of spring. In the winter they were just a little non-descript bulb. But buried away deep in the earth, they wait. And they wait. And after waiting a really, really long time...
lentement, lentement, ils apparaissent they burst through and make their debut in brilliant colors as a flower.

Give it up.

In the past I've given something up for the season of Lent. We live busy lives. We can lose ourselves. Our purpose. And life flies by. But this life is not a dress rehearsal. So, I like the hiccup that happens when you commit to let go and release something from your life. Set it aside, or, as I'm planning to do this year, perhaps add something to your life, consistently, throughout these 40 days.

Today marks the beginning of Lent and being inquisitive by nature (what did I do before the internet, I have no idea), I got curious about some of the traditions of Lent. My own personal interpretation of Lent may lean a little toward the pagan side, but there's a profound spiritual connection that can occur as well.

As for some basic questions I had...

Why is it called Lent?
Lent means long. Slow. According to one source, it also means Spring. And... the days are getting longer.

Why pancakes on Tuesday? And eggs at Easter?
Pancakes were a way to use up rich foodstuffs such as milk, sugar, and... eggs before the fasting season of the 40 days of Lent. So then when Easter Sunday arrived it was a time to celebrate, priests would bless eggs, cheese, meats and other items that the faithful had been abstaining from during Lent. Hence, Easter eggs. The bunnies? You'll have to do some research on your own...

How did we get from fasting ...to giving up chocolate, TV, and Facebook*?
There are traditionally 40 days in Lent which are marked by fasting, both from foods or festivities. Today, some people give up a vice of theirs, or do something that will center themselves, bringing them closer to God. Many modern Protestants consider the observation of Lent to be a choice, or opportunity, rather than an obligation.

As for my pagan interpretation and the spiritual connection...

Removing something in our life that doesn't contribute to us being the best us, or adding in something that will get us to that place... is how I see the journey of Lent. By giving up something that interferes or overly influences your life, or making the time for you to contemplate your unique purpose, I believe we can get closer to what we are meant to be in this life.

And being a breadcrumb-follower who just turned 40 last December, this journey of 40 days has a particular connectionfor me this year.

Getting closer to God?

We live in a world that sadly provides more and more reasons for people to distrust organized religion. But humans are the problem. Not God. Humans are fallible. Even in our best efforts, each of us has done or said things that don't coincide with the image we have of ourselves, or maybe the image God has for us. So Lent, to me, provides a period of time to contemplate this. As for God, I can't prove to you that God exists. And I like that. That is why it is called faith.

If you do happen to subscribe to the idea that each of us has a unique gift or purpose for our short time in this crazy and beautiful world, I believe that one of the greatest achievements (and displays of gratitude) is to relentlessly pursue that.

Closer to fine?

What is it for you? Is it being an artist and showing the world something that their eyes were blind to before? Is it to be a teacher and guide a young mind? Be a loving father? Is it to head up a volunteer organization and offer compassion in a harsh world? Is it to be a world traveler and shed light on the beauties, or atrocities, around the world? What is your gift? Your purpose? Why are you here?

In our busy, busy lives. In the routine-ness we fall into. In the over-obligated schedules we hold. When is there even the time to contemplate these things? To become... closer to fine. Closer to God?

If the time isn't there, I believe we must make the time.

Only we (and God) know our deep past and present struggles, and what we want for our future. I believe that we possess more wisdom, insight, and strength than we know. I believe in the core of our being
each of us knows what gift or purpose we each possess. And when we can center and quiet ourselves enough, when we can rely on ourselves and connect with God we can regain that hidden strength and purpose. Going out to the desert for 40 days must have been a very centering experience. Shedding outside influence. Getting closer to God.

A few years back I gave up TV. Such a relief. No bombardment of information I really didn't need... or even want. And a freedom to get out, read more, or just relax.

* Then last year I even surprised myself by giving up... Facebook. For 40 days. Perhaps this illustrates the more 'pagan' interpretation that I referred to. But what happened was transformative. Being that I work solo as a professional creative in the DC-area, I don't have 'cube mates' or others in my office to chat with or bounce ideas off of, FB is a god-send. And it has an 'alive' quality about it, with profile pics changing like mood rings, little blips of sweet juicy insights into someone's take on their world in a given day. And that part can make it a bit addictive. So I sought to retreat. To recalibrate. And I loved the break from it.

And this year, I am focusing, more privately, on a new thing for this season.

I can't randomly quote scripture from the bible, I certainly don't profess to be perfect or holier than anyone, I'm not. But I do strive to be the best that I can be while I'm here on this beautiful crazy planet. And I do believe in God. And
that where God guides, God will provide. If it's to the wilderness for reflection. So be it. If it's into service and volunteer work so be it. If it's turning off the things in our life that are distractions. Give it up.

In retreating, in this losing of ourselves, we can become found.

After this upcoming period of Lent, of sacrifice... or focus... or addition... perhaps we ourselves will emerge. And blossom. Stronger, wiser, more humble, more compassionate? Even transformed? Opening our own selves up to new possibilities. Like the crocus that emerges and reaches up and out to life. We may just get closer to fine.

Here goes...

©2011 Wendy Hudgins

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