Lent: A Reverse Strategy


Lent - a reflective time that can teach lessons across any and all spiritualities. For Christians, such as myself, who observe it, the meaning of Lent is the traditional one: to make a meaningful sacrifice that allows us to recall and honor Christ's own sacrifice. For other Christians and non-Christians, it can be a confusing time when some folks just give up things they really like. But these next 40 days can be a perfect time to cast off things that needs to be shed...or even the opposite.


Image: amandamillar via Flickr

A recent trend in spiritual practice is to add something good for that period, like exercise, meditation, or some act of community service. And those are fine ideas; there are as many ways to celebrate Lent as there are people spending it.

This year, I am planning to do something different. I think of it as 'Lent with a New Look'. And I'll blog about it daily on my home blog.

Here it is: (imagine me taking a deep breath here)

For the entire period of Lent, every day I will do something that I do not want to do or have been delaying unreasonably. And I will blog about it.

I have a gigantic list of things I should do. Some of them are tiny, some huge. But all together these "to dos" can feel daunting. When I dreamed about them a few weeks ago, I dreamed I was being rained on with massive amounts of popcorn. I have silly things on the mental list. Here are a few of the most absurd.

1. Buy paperclips. I keep forgetting. Then when I remember, it seems silly to make a special trip out for paperclips. But I need them. Yet these foolish wires elude me. But they nag at me.

2. Gather up a few books I have borrowed and return them. I know, I might be becoming one of "those" people. But hey, there are only three. I know where two of them are. The third one nags at me from hiding.

3. Mend that beautiful blouse, the long sleeve of which got caught on a hook and tore slightly. It will only take a few minutes to repair, but I do not like mending. Apparently I like listening to the blouse nag at me more.

4. Tidy up my desk. (This is not a tiny one.) But one would think, self-employed being that I am, that this would not even be on the list at all.

5. Transplant the darned African violet before it bursts its pot. While I am at it, the Dracaena Massengeanna has been nagging for a new monster pot. The darned thing is about 6' tall, and its pot is pretty puny. No wonder it complains by leaning determinedly to the left.

6. Go through the drawers in the bed-stands and tidy them up. Thy have become catch-alls. They have everything from Vick's VapoRub to dangle earrings to a screwdriver to pens and papers to various remotes and hand lotion in them. All in a jumble. They are like a junkyard of needful things.

7. Filing. Ugh. Enough said.

8. Cleaning Oven. I hate it. I do it, but I hate it.

9. Sending two belated birthday cards before they become next year's regular birthday cards.

10. Buy a whole box of Thank You cards so that I can send them more often when someone has been lovely to me.

11. Box up some clothes from my old dresser for charity. After all, they have been sitting inside there for two years without me wearing them. (Long story.) Besides, do I really NEED a zebra skin pattern bra in the wrong size, never worn? Or that weird T-Shirt advertizing a psychotropic medication? Or the Micky Mouse stretchable slippers? (N.B.: There are some great things there,too. I promise.)

The list can go on for 40 days with no problem. By the way, Lent is actually longer than 40 days, because the Sundays are not counted. So Sunday we can chill.

I have always found that if something seems overwhelming -- like my mountain of small "to-dos", I can actually make it manageable by breaking it into little pieces.It is important to not treat this sort of spiritual exercise like physical exercise gone wrong. You know the way to undo a great idea is to try and over-do it. I have blown many plans to work out by trying to do too much all of a sudden. Then I get overwhelmed again and quit. The exercise of the spirit is similar.

How long will it take to get things done? It will take as long as it takes. No more and no less. Do not fret about the "end-game". Just do your one thing a day. Don't plan 40 days in advance. Decide each day, or the night before, what will be the task of the day. Let some of them be tiny.
For example, I keep meaning to bring a supply of extra light bulbs down to my office. Once I get downstairs and settled in, I don't want to go back upstairs just for a back-up supply of light bulbs. So, a tiny thing for me is to just get the silly light bulbs. *POOF* One nagging item gone.

Now, for the spiritual component for those of us who will fold this into a larger spiritual practice:

It is important to take a breath and quietly say a brief prayer or take some meditative moment after completing each task. You may feel a need to be thankful, if only for the ability to get these things done. You may wish to see the ordering of your life as a way to honor your Creator.

We have been given the gift of life, as messy and difficult, splendid and intricate as it is. In our tending to it well, we can build moments of spiritual practice effortlessly through our day.

Are you making plans for Lent? Are they traditional sorts of vows? What do you hope to accomplish during this season?


~~ Contributing Editor, Mata H. also blogs right along at Time's Fool


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