Lent is here. It seems sudden, somehow. It is light in the morning, and usually light when I leave work, and I can see that the spring is coming despite the intense cold, but I feel unprepared. I haven't fully selected a Lenten discipline.
I was raised in a rather anti-Lent environment. Fundamental Christians of my childhood generally mocked the idea of meatless Fridays and "giving up" something for Lent. Jesus says we're supposed to do that stuff in secret, right? And there are 'those Catholics' bragging it up! (It was quite a revelation to me later when I realized that Catholics love Jesus too, and that heaven is going to be chock full of people I was taught were never going to make it there, but I digress.)
Over the years I've come to understand both the spirituality and the science behind Lenten disciplines. Scientists have long understood that it takes about 30 days to firm up a new habit. Make it 40 and you should be good to go. Self-improvement, here we come! But if the purpose of Lent is to prepare for Easter, our discipline should not be about ourselves at all. How does 'giving up' something for Lent bring me closer to God or my fellow man? I gave up 'giving up' long ago. 'Giving out' just makes more sense to me.
I've seen some good suggestions for Lenten disciplines this year. My favorite may be "Forty Bags in Forty Days.," in which one removes one bag of anything daily from ones' home. The purpose of this is to rid your home of clutter. This could certainly better many a family, and if the clutter is donated to a charity, it could benefit others as well, but somehow it seems inherently selfish: If I do this MY home will be a better place. I suppose it depends on the spirit in which it is done. Our home is nothing if not uncluttered. Since Babygirl's dialysis started we've concentrated on being able to keep the house thoroughly clean. But like many people, we cleaned but we may not have completely decluttered - please don't ask to look at my third floor or my basement!
Babygirl has been campaigning for months to take over the third floor as her own space. Since we have to walk through her current room to get to it, we really aren't using it for anything - except as a place to drop everything we aren't using.
So I will help Babygirl with her discipline - declutter the attic. It will be a motivator to get her going. It will benefit charity - lots of rummage sale donations. It will, I hope, benefit our relationship. For my own discipline, I think I will once again do random acts of kindness. Focusing outward on the needs of people around me gets me out of myself, and makes me think more like Jesus would think. And at least once, I will be kind to myself; not in the sense of giving myself something like a pedicure, but in the sense of forgiving myself, cutting myself some slack, letting go of the often unnecessary pressure that I put on myself - that layer that lies on top of all the pressures life itself has handed me - and living in the peaceful, forgiving Presence of God.