My younger son & I were discussing Lent today. He said he wasn’t much in to suffering as an element of religious faith. And I agreed.
In my younger life, I didn’t observe Lent. At least, not with more than a superficial, glib ‘oh, I’m giving up soda…hee hee!’ Nothing critical, nothing really much of a ‘doing without.’
And then I went to live for years in Saudi Arabia, where Ramadan – that season of fasting & reflection – held sway throughout every element of the culture. For weeks on end. I was fascinated, & asked friends about the custom, which I was familiar with from a year lived in Algeria, but didn’t know well.
Was it – like my understanding of Lent – about suffering? About the origin of Shrove Tuesday? Penance for our sins, hence the suffering? And no, it wasn’t. Ramadan is about a different kind of doing without: a kind of suffering in solidarity. It’s about a very small taste of what it’s like to be poor, to be w/out food & even water. To go w/out luxuries like perfume, cosmetics. To remember that for much of the world, life is a matter of bare survival.
That made such sense to me! And so I began to observe Lent, trying to give up something meaningful. I haven’t been able to do an entire Ramadan yet; it’s so very hard. But I can let go of something I enjoy a great deal, something that is part of my daily life. So that a small tear appears in the fabric of my days. Something that serves as a daily reminder of the very different lives lived around our wrold.
This year, like one previous, I’m giving up FaceBook. But this year it’s a harder, following a move that has left me far more isolated from friends & family than before. Two of my three beloved sisters are on FB, posting pictures of their daily lives. Most of my communication w/ my friends – spread all over the globe – is through FB these days. I will miss that these next 40 days. Miss knowing how they are from day to day. Miss just hearing their ‘voices.’
And that’s as it should be. It wouldn’t be an authentic giving up if it didn’t leave at least a bit of a hole. That’s the point, isn’t it? Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday: are you giving up anything for Lent? Want to share what it is?