Lenten longings

7 Mar

I asked a particularly devout friend what criteria to use in deciding about Lenten fasting.  Exactly as I’d requested, I was given a system.  It follows:

Question 1:

Is it possibly harmful?

Is it a habit?

Do I love it too much?

Does it allow me to avoid something I should confront?

If yes, give it up for 40 days.

Question 2:

Is it something that would bring order or simplicity to my life?

Will it bring me closer to God?

Will it decrease the importance of ME in my world?

If yes, do it for 40 days.

In answer to #1, I came up with coffee.  I do love it too much.  It is definitely a habit.  A large cup of coffee in the morning allows me avoid confronting the chronic sleep deprivation that accompanies being the single parent of three children.  I don’t do anything except care for them and fulfill their requests as long as they are awake.  When and if they finally drift off to sleep, my free time commences.  I read, I write to you, I chat with my fb friends, I think about how tired I am, and I invariably stay up too late.  And every morning I just drag my exhausted self out of bed to face the day.  So yes, coffee helps me avoid taking a disciplined approach to time management and practicing good sleep hygiene.

And that brings me to Question set #2.

Giving up coffee would in no imaginable way bring me closer to God in any spiritual-growth sense.  Only possibly in the sense that I might endanger my and my children’s lives by falling asleep at the wheel of the car.  Or I might be brought closer to God in the way that He might say to me, “Claire, it has been brought to My attention that you have the least cheerful heart of any of My children, and this is a warning that you need to work on your attitude.”  A little Lenten lecture, if you will. 

Would it bring order or simplicity to my life?  I doubt that very seriously.

Would it decrease the importance of ME in the world?  It’s a funny thing about being me in the world.  I am both the most important and the least important person in my world.  I am the most important because without me around, the rest of them would be on their own.  As lost and helpless as only motherless children can be.  And I am simultaneously the least important person in my world because there is nothing in our day-to-day living that is about me and what I want.  I hardly even have any opinions except as to what’s best for the children.  My preferences for me come dead last.  I’m convinced that it is the nature of motherhood.

Giving up coffee would decrease the effectiveness of being me in my world, so I am afraid that Question set #2 takes a caffeine-free trio of fortnights out of the running. 

I don’t have many other vices.  I live by the motto: “What would Dave do?” as it relates to any financial decision – large or small.  Dave doesn’t wear nice shoes or jewelry.  He doesn’t buy expensive trinkets or have a fetish for feminine cowboy boots.  Glamorous, 1940’s-inspired high heels hold no appeal to him. 

I gave up drinking too much alcohol around the time my first baby was expected.  I have never really felt like I could let my guard down once I knew there was a little one counting on me.  They say that Reality is for people who can’t face drugs – and that’s me.  I live too far from Nevada and Mississippi to have developed much of a gambling habit.  I have already sworn to stop telling people what I really think.

Maybe Jennifer, my Sewanee and fb friend and last commenter is right.  Perhaps I need to think of a habit to adopt.  The ones I embrace right now are far too essential to people other than me.

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2 Responses to “Lenten longings”

  1. Jess March 9, 2011 at 4:55 pm #

    Well my first response when talking about this very subject at the dinner table a few nights ago: I could give up heroin, officially. I hear the withdrawl symptoms are awful, but since I’ve never started I figured I’d be okay. Kevin didn’t think this was quite what Lent was all about.

    Party pooper.

    Instead I’m striving to respond with more patience and see the joy surrounding me. That will keep me quite busy for the next 40 days!

  2. brightenthecorner March 10, 2011 at 1:56 am #

    Seeing the joy will probably be a lot easier than responding with patience, my friend! But both are really worthwhile habits to cultivate. I can see the joy, but I am not the least bit patient.

    I settled on writing one thank-you note per day. On a bad day, it may just be an email or a text message. That makes you look for things to be grateful for and to have to appreciate, and I have been amazed that once you start looking for them, the little kindnesses and joys come out of the woodwork. Amazing.

    As to fasting: I give up burdening anyone (except of course, my chidlren) with my expectations of them. Often I say something or ask for something and then I’m not happy when the response is other than what I hoped to get. I am through with expecting anyone to live up to my demands on them. For 40 days or so.

    So, to my friends: do what you will, eat what you will, spend your time and money how you choose, approve of me, disapprove of me, invite me, don’t invite me, call me or not, respond to my brilliant and witty fb status or don’t, I will love you just the same. But just for 6 weeks. After that, I will probably be right back to normal.

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