If you’ll remember from No Pain, No Gain, I mentioned that I would be making two sacrifices during Lent this year: 1) a reduction in my consumption of meat, and 2) taking shorter, more water-efficient showers. In addition to these two commitments, I decided to also spend the hour after dinner with scripture rather than with reruns of 30 Rock.
So, now more than halfway through the Lenten season, how am I doing you ask? Let’s just say two out of three ain’t bad!
Reducing almost all of the meat from my diet has not been easy at all, but I have to say, easier than I had expected. Keen from the start about not being a vegetarian, I have been pretty strict about eating meat once or twice a week, no more and certainly no less. While there are usually quality, non-meat options available that leave me just as full as I would normally be, I have found great satisfaction in the few instances in which there were not quality alternatives. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with going hungry once in a while (as long as its voluntary). Not only is it a wonderful penitential act, it offers a concrete experience of the hunger that so many experience each day, and dropping any feelings of entitlement that “I deserve” something.
Similarly, with the exception of the first few days, I’ve had surprisingly little problem with the adjusted showers. To insure that I am being water-efficient (and to up the ante on the penance), I have been turning off the water during the shower when it’s not in use. The shock of cold can be difficult in the morning, but it certainly reminds me not to take water for granted and to view the showering process in more of utilitarian rather than luxurious way (as it is certainly a luxury in the eyes of many people throughout the world).
My last Lenten commitment has unfortunately not panned out as well. Part of is it my own laziness, but most of it is simply the nature of our schedule: the 7:00 hour of our day has been very irregular given our travels and periodic nightly meetings, and it’s difficult to commit to anything regularly. I have not watched a single rerun of 30 Rock, but at the same time have filled that hour with other tasks. Does that almost count?
Ultimately, the success or failure of Lent does not depend on my ability to observe a given task or achieve an arbitrary goal. Lent is not simply a season for punishing oneself for being a sinner. Instead, I need to ask myself, how have these three tasks helped me grow closer to God, and am I more prepared for Easter than I was before?
In that way, I have to say that Lent has been a success (so far). Each of these commitments have been steps forward in action, flowing from a contrite heart and true faith, to be better reconciled with God, self, others, and God’s created order. Thus, when Lent is over and we are rejoicing in the season of Easter, I don’t plan on dropping these commitments to return to my old habits. What would the point of Lent be if our changed heart does not continue? This is not to say that my old habits are necessarily sinful, but that after having seen how these new habits have helped me grow in awareness and closeness to God, a return to the old ones would be entirely fruitless, and completely illogical.
Lent, like life as a friar, is all about putting on a new habit for the future.
As for the hermitage retreat last week, there was simply too much that happened for me to post about it right away. Given that I had almost five full days in complete solitude to pray and think, I’m going to need a bit more time to decompress and organize my thoughts before I can share it with everyone. Without putting any sort of time-table on it, look for a post about that in the future! For the time being, check out the Shutterfly website here for a few sneak peek pictures.