LENTEN VOICES is an occasional series reflecting on our journey through this season.
TODAY, we introduce blogger Lyda K. Hawes, the creator of See Lyda Run, who describes herself as an every-woman athlete sharing her adventures in running. She loves participating in endurance events and has learned, by ignoring the naysayers, that your age, weight, size, and speed do not have to get in the way of chasing your dreams. She also believes the path to God can be found in many places, including both the running path and being in community with fellow seekers in a more traditional church setting.
By Lyda K. Hawes
In my early years of observing Lent, I was extremely strict with myself in regards to whatever sacrifice I happened to be making. There were no excuses, no loop holes, no skipping out on Sundays, no forgiveness, NO MERCY! It was go big or go home, all or nothing, perfection or despair. Although I was always very clear that I never expected anyone else to follow suit or live by my Lenten restrictions, what I have learned over time is being around that version of me is incredibly annoying for everyone else. Others were constantly having to adjust their lives to meet my needs. I found that by marching around and trumpeting my “look at me and my Lenten goodness” others felt compelled to accommodate me. Even if I didn’t ask or want them to, some simply did it because they wanted to be supportive in the way that friends and family often give their support to whatever whack-o thing you’re up to at any given moment. (Forget Lent for a minute, I have quite a track record in taking up whack-o things.)
I like to think I have improved on this front, but I also know it’s an area where I still need work. Last year (where I gave up going out to eat), I thought I was being super clever for a work-related offsite event by offering to bring lunch and happy hour fixins. I learned later that the sandwiches that I brought were not on a colleague’s low carb diet, not to mention he had to make special arrangements with the location for me to bring my food, but he was gracious enough not to stand in my way. And I believe an element of this discipline is not to make a big fuss about what you are doing, so writing blog posts about the whole business probably doesn’t help my cause either.
Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
Matthew 6, verse 1
This year I decided to be more conscientious about not taking those around me through my personal journey of Lenten sacrifice. Okay, obviously writing this post invites people to go along the journey with me in some respects; so to clarify, I mean I am working hard not to inflict my offline, “real life,” Lenten choices on others. As far as my online presence goes, people can choose whether or not to read this post, or whether they even agree with my sentiments. Perhaps I really shouldn’t be writing about my experience with Lent—at least not on a blog, but that will have to be a struggle for another season.
What this really means is that I have to make a conscious choice to set aside perfect devotion to my sacrifice. Sometimes I have to live with my own inability to fulfill the commitment I have made. This past Friday we got together with friends we hadn’t seen in some months. Our usual tradition involves getting together for a meal and then watching a movie or catching up on the reality shows they know I like that are on cable, which we don’t have. I was very conflicted about how to handle this situation since I gave up TV for Lent. I initially suggested we get together on Sunday because there is a bit of a loophole with Lent on Sundays, but I actually keep to my discipline on Sundays, so I still would have felt like I was cheating in my heart. (As an aside, I do this because when I think of Jesus out in the wilderness for 40 days being tempted by Satan, I’m guessing he wasn’t taking Sundays off.) I considered telling them I had given up TV and movies for Lent, but it just felt like I would have been making them suffer for my choices which was exactly what I did not want to do. I also considered that perhaps I could have waited to see them until after Easter. In the end we did get together and we did watch TV—and, yes, I “inhaled”—and, yes, I had mixed feelings about that. But one of the things I also learned was the reason why we hadn’t heard from them in so long. They had been experiencing some personal challenges on a couple of different fronts and we were able to listen to them, give them our empathy and show that we cared about what was going on in their life by our presence.
Does that excuse my breaking my commitment not to watch TV?
Honestly, no, and I have to live with my own disappointment about that.
Am I glad we made the choice to go see them and not burden them with my TV-free life?
The green reed that bends in the wind is stronger than the mighty oak which breaks in a storm.
Care to read other Lenten Voices?
HEATHER JOSE: Why We Need Meals Together This Year
BENJAMIN PRATT: Charcoal, Cuba and Compassion
BETH MILLER: How Ash Wednesday Found Us in Kenya
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Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.