Monday, March 5, 2018

Must Our Lenten Disciplines Be Dour?

I've been joking about my Lenten photography discipline, the mixing of seasons in pictures that you can see in this post and this one.  At first I didn't really see it as a Lenten discipline, and I'm still not sure that I do.  But in writing about this practice, I have come to realize that I seem to believe that a Lenten discipline should be austere and dour and dusted with ash.

Do I really think that?  Do I have that opinion of all spiritual disciplines?

No, I don't.  In fact, I often adopt other spiritual disciplines hoping for joy--or if not joy, then at least attitudes that are joy adjacent:  gratitude, appreciation, focus, awareness of miracles.

But Lent has always been different.  I've always thought that Lent should remind us of our mortality--that we don't have much time left.  For me, that's not a message filled with joy.  I'm not one of those Christians who can't wait to go back to my heavenly home.  There's so much left to do here.

And in the past 15 years, Lent has often been a time of watching someone else suffer with mortal frailty:  my mother-in-law's slow death in 2005, my best friend's esophageal cancer diagnosis in 2014--and those are two of the ones that loom large.  For me, Lent is often a time of grim reminders of the many ways our flesh can fail us.

I'm still pondering the idea that a Lenten discipline can be whimsical--could that approach really fit with the season?

I'm used to feeling that I'm still in an Ash Wednesday place during parts of the liturgical year that are more filled with the expectation of joy, like Easter.  I'm not used to feeling whimsical joy during Lent.

What on earth is the Holy Spirit up to?

No comments: