Growing up, I was the kid who always benefited the most from the season of Lent. Every Friday my Catholic friends in high school, in a moment of weakness, would pick up a few pieces of pepperoni pizza or a cheeseburger, only to remember their Lenten fast just in time for me to show them Christlike grace by taking their sin upon me into my stomach. In my mind, Lent was another way those Catholics tried to earn salvation, one of their many misguided “works of the Law” from which Christ came to set us Protestants free.
I’m approaching my third year of observing the season of Lent. Through a small community of believers in a tiny urban church in Springfield, Ohio, I discovered the beauty and symbolism of the ashes and the liturgy and the season. Contrary to the guilty faces of my peers passing me pizza in high school, the ash-covered faces of these believers were reflective, even joyful. This was a time with a purpose, a time to be trained and to be reminded of who were we made to be, and how we are still in need of remaking. A time when our bodies can tell us the truth and teach us to be who we were made to be. A time for returning and remembering, a time to embrace death so that we can receive life.
My first year was full of good intentions and failures. Last year I gave up social media… sort of. Taking an online class which required some use of social media was a convenient excuse to check out a few status updates, like a few photos, and by Passion Week I had forgotten all about my Ash Wednesday intentions.
This year I have decided to fast from coffee and to take up consistent times of journaling and reflection. I hope to share some of my experience here, both as an outlet for my own reflection and to avoid becoming isolated in my introspection during the season. The thought of giving up coffee, knowing how addicted I am to it, makes me very nervous. But I’ll discuss that later.
Others have explained the beauty and purpose of this season far better than I could. Tim Gombis, my former professor and one of those who introduced me to this season during our time together at Midtown, has written on the way that Lent trains us to be Christian here. Mockingbird has a piece here correcting the false belief that Lent is an exercise in asceticism and futile piety; rather Lent allows us to embrace our helpless position and prepare for the gift of life that is on its way.
Tomorrow I’ll talk more about coffee. For now, I’ll leave with a verse and enjoy my last cup.
“Who will rescue me from this body of death?