A Near Death Experience

There’s a prerequisite for heaven.  It’s called death.

You remember that line from the movie, Princess Bride?  “There’s dead and then there’s mostly dead.”

The other day I realized I was only mostly dead.  Or even less than that.  Maybe just a smidge dead.

But I wanted to be SEEN as totally dead.  Dead to self.  To selfishness.  To self-centeredness.

Several times in the course of two days I gave time and effort and gave up comfort to go out of my way and serve someone.

And you know what?  It didn’t seem to matter at all.  No one said “thanks”, much less threw a parade.

The kid I tutor was rude and uncooperative.  The meal I made for someone didn’t fit their dietary restrictions.  And, and, and…

And my bratty 13-year-old self, wanted a high five or at least a little “Woohoo!” from Jesus.  And by that I mean from everyone around me.

The main person I really wanted to serve was myself.

I wanted the image of serving others, and the perk of being noticed and admired.

I wanted it to look like I had a shiny outside but my inside was pretty gross…maggoty in fact.

Have you ever recognized this in yourself?  Maybe once?

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What are you giving up for Lent? Or are you giving up Lent?

As I mentioned the other day in my geriatric rant, we’re on vacation in Florida and the other morning we decided to attend an Ash Wednesday service at a lovely little Episcopal Chapel near where we’re staying.

I was on high alert from the moment we entered because I’m not Episcopalian and I was sure I was going to mess up and kneel at the wrong time, or not know the secret handshake that would get me communion, or ask forgiveness for my “debts” instead of my “trespasses”.  I took my cues from a girl across the aisle who clearly knew the liturgical ropes, bowing to the Bible when it went by and making the sign of the cross on her forehead, lips, and heart.  I was fascinated.

Like I said, I’m not Episcopalian and I’m not Catholic either, but by turns throughout my life I have been disdainful towards, curious about, and, in the past five years, enriched by many of  their practices.

When I was growing up all I knew was that the Catholic kids went to St. Petronille for church (named after a guy who must have been on the JV team of saints because I’ve never heard of him since and neither has my husband who did grow up Catholic).  They got to get out of school early on Wednesday to go to Catechism and got to eat fish on Friday.  We never had fish in my family.  So they were special and kind of mysterious to me.

On Wednesday, while I still struggled to own the words of liturgy in a way that was meaningful, I deeply appreciated the silence, the reverence, and the simplicity of a worship gathering full of Scripture.  These guys really do repentance big time!

Anyway, all this has got me thinking about Lent and the question many people ask, “What are you giving up for Lent?”

Confession:  As far as I can remember I’ve never given up anything for Lent.

It’s just not been a part of my spiritual tradition.  And frankly, when I have considered it I’ve always thought “Well I could give up Starbucks if I wanted to, but I don’t have to so I won’t.”  I am so not into sacrifice.  I realize this exposes one of the idols I daily pray to relinquish – the idol of comfort.  Ugh!

I know it’s easy to abuse this practice…make it a badge of honor, a “work of righteousness”, an end instead of a means.  But, I’ve been reading about it and I’m wondering if it might be a good spiritual practice for me, identifying with Jesus in some small way, this voluntary sacrifice stuff.  I’m cringing even as I write this.  I find myself thinking, “Could I pick something I like, but don’t like too much?  Kind of ease into this maybe?”

I know we’re past the kick-off time, but Jesus is all about grace, right?  So even though it wouldn’t be neat and tidy and legal, I could still start something I think.

I want to know… What has your experience been with giving up something for Lent?  Was it a meaningful discipline?

Couple quotes on Lent…

“Lenten disciplines help us to abstain from the daily distractions that prevent us from seeing and naming reality correctly. As we allow some of the external trappings of our lives to be stripped away, we can return to a truer sense of ourselves and a deeper pursuit of God.” Ruth Haley Barton

“Like going with Jesus into the wilderness for forty days, that we might come face to ugly face with our enemy.  Our sacrificing that we might become more like Christ in His sacrifice.”  Ann Voskamp