|Once upon a time it used to be fashionable to give something up for
Lent. Perhaps it should still be so, and perhaps, among some, it still
is. At the very least this is time for a reminder, a reminder of who and
what we are. Be we never so noble, well bred, well educated, finely intelligent
and morally perfect, be we never so blessed by the holy spirit and meticulous
in charity; be we never so evil, dark, or even, God bless us, barely mature;
neither we, nor our fame. is everlasting. We are dust. Whatever our beliefs
and our path, this mortal life is just that. Mortal.
Perhaps it behoves us to remember two things on this Ash Wednesday.
One is that this is, above all, a time to take stock. Here, in the Southern
Hemisphere, it is the culling season anyway. A time to pull our horns in
for the beginning of winter. In the North it's the time of the grand clean
up, to make way for new growth. Both these Seasons are good ones in which
to take stock and to realign ourselves and our ways.
The second thing is this. Remember that the Wilderness is, and was,
already there. It will be there in your life, as it is in mine. Whether
by way of physical illness, human poverty, a constant heartache, a permanent
grumble, or an attitude of mind. To withdraw into the wilderness then is
to go where the pain already is, and to see what we, with the Lord, can
make of this. Whether it is something to be cut out of our lives, whether
it is an addiction, whether it is indeed a pain that can be offered and
transformed into a special gift, or a spiritual way it will in the end
be a gift of real joy, both to him, and to us.
While it is most certainly true that we should be working at overcoming
our sins and weaknesses all the time, I suspect that such a way of life
is a human impossibility - without special spiritual graces, and awareness,
I mean. Still, so long as the rain falls on the Just and the Unjust alike,
the difference must surely be one of attitude. Humility is not a simple
conclusion that 'I'm always wrong and might just as well give up', it is
the conclusion that I need help here.
As the old hymn has it, Just as I am, without one plea. 'Here
I am Lord', I shall be praying today, ;help me to see where that is, exactly,
and what you want me to do with it'. Lenten discipline may well entail
my giving thanks for a few things I hadn't noticed as assets, as well as
throwing away a few things I've been clinging to as if they were necessities.
So there it is. This is the time for self assessment, with the help
of our Lord. It is the time to take on board that we are growing up. "But
it hurts, but I don't want to", won't save us from the pain, though they
may save us from the growth. This is the time for listening carefully to
Him. Perhaps what we most dearly wish he would take from us, it is his
will for us to keep. That then, be our wilderness, the place of our exploring.
Above all, this Lent, let it be a time of awareness. (grin) Awareness
that though we are important enough to die for, our good self opinion isn't
that important. After all, rather than let us stay guilty all our lives,
He rose from the dead.
Giving up sugar may well remind us of what we need to remember, but
it is Grace, after all, who teaches us to find the path.