I love traditions. The ebb and flow of the liturgical seasons help to center my heart as the craziness of life pulls and pushes from all directions. Different faith communities mark the season of Lent with various devotional practices. This year at the annual Shrove Tuesday pancake dinner, my daughter picked up a black-and-white poster entitled Lenten Journey. It is set up much like a pious version of Candyland, though I have looked and no, there doesn’t seem to be a Rainbow Trail that will skip us straight to Easter. We’ve colored in the first two squares for Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday and have placed our translucent game piece on the third square. Today’s square asks “What will I give up?” and then provides a minuscule box just big enough for one word, if you happen to write like an architect.
I think I established yesterday that I had actually gone down the “give it up” route several years running. I’ve given up meats and sweets. I’ve given up my time in service to others. I even gave up Fashion one year, wearing t-shirts and blue jeans for 40 days straight. That “giving up” process seemed to be a dead-end street headed for the Molasses Swamp (to stick with the Candyland analogy).
I had ruminated all day today about my post for this evening. I had planned a really insightful post on the meaning of Lent. About why people do give things up, or take things on. As my errands for the day were drawing to a close, I heard an interview on NPR with the Metropolitan for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in America. He talked about how the events in the Ukraine are affecting his parishioners, how Lent is a little different this year because the world is intruding on this solemn, holy time in very violent ways. Then he shared the prayer that his church and many other Eastern churches pray daily during Lent. I thought I might include his words and the prayer to connect my reflections to the greater world. This was going to be a great way to start!
Then I realized in the frantic bustle of the evening that I had forgotten the dog at “camp” today. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with my crazy life right now, I won’t provide details, just words…home renovations, homeschooling, cello lesson, ballet, swim practice, lost iphone, moving in 6 days…and an extremely rambunctious 3-year-old rescue pup who ate an entire box of Girl Scout Tag-a-long cookies when he was left alone in the house for 6 hours yesterday).
I had managed to hold it all together today, so I thought. Then at 9:30 tonight, the bubble burst. The dog had been left behind. It felt like a literal bubble bursting. I deflated. I felt the air inside me just leak out. It’s not so much that I forgot the dog. The forgotten dog became the symbol of the tightrope I am walking these days.
I’m working so hard to hold everything together. The little victories, like getting the cabinet installer and the appliance deliverer and my general contractor to work together this morning, involve far more energy and time than they should. And the important things seem to get lost in the minutia. My son, seeing my angst over the forgotten dog, and having witnessed more than one of my moments of weariness over the last few months, suggested tonight that I meditate. He told me that it really helps him when he is feeling overwhelmed. I think I’ve come to the point where if I’ve not fallen apart by the end of the day, a melted puddle of exhaustion, then it has been a good day. I should probably take my son’s advice.
So, in the spirit of vulnerability, I simply couldn’t sit down and write a detached little tome on the meaning of Lent. Instead, you my blessed readers get this confession.
Yes, the world does intrude on these solemn days of Lent, sometimes a little more violently than others. Life without intrusion is a luxury I can’t even imagine. Honestly, I don’t think I want to imagine it. And solemnity, well maybe that is what I need to give up. One of my favorite songs by the Indigo Girls is Closer to Fine. Amy Ray and Emily Saliers croon in their beautiful harmony “The best thing you’ve ever done for me is to help me take my life less seriously…it’s only life after all.”
That prayer I mentioned earlier, the one used by the Eastern Orthodox church, has a little something to say about giving up, too.
O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk.
But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.
Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages. Amen.
I give up. I give up my spirit of sloth and despair, my lust for power and my need to control; I give up my critical, idle talk. I give up my too-solemn seriousness that takes away my perspective. I give them all up. Take them from me, please God. Kyrie Eleison…Lord, Have Mercy. These are words of the tradition I truly understand, a simple tradition I crave. I pray tonight, “I give up. Help me to give up. Kyrie Eleison.”