OK, so Episcopalians (and of course other Christians) are supposed to give up something for Lent, right? And usually you hear that people are giving up chocolate, or beer, or coffee or whatever other “vice” they may think will satisfy the requirement.
For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out a “thing”, a tangible, tasty, “thing” that I could give up. Or at least, give it up and really “miss” it. Coffee, sadly, might have been the closest…but I somehow doubt that it would have done much to make me contemplate and meditate on God not to have my cup o’ joe. Instead, I’d have probably cheated and found some other way to get caffeine. But I became aware, as Lent approached, that my body was going into a state of panic. My heart would beat faster, and my palms would get clammy as I approached the doors of St. John’s in the days that led up to Ash Wednesday. I didn’t understand it. I wasn’t going to run away, but—damn—what’s this dread? Even going to the altar for communion, I had butterflies in my stomach, and I found myself repeating words I remembered from my youth:
“Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.”
Then, on Ash Wednesday, Mtr. Lee Shafer brought into her sermon the words of a former Presiding Bishop which outlined some Rules for Lent. The last one nailed me as it were:
“Fast on Fear, Feast on Faith”.
My eyes widened. My heart stopped racing. If I didn’t make the actual sound, I know my body said, “Oh, wow! That’s it!” Fear cripples me. It silences my truth and it keeps my brain in a feedback loop that tells me I don’t matter, I’m not worthy. And, putting it bluntly, it is what keeps me apart from the light that shines as bright as an Eastern Star.
So, my task this Lent has been to fast on fear and feast on faith.
How have I done? Well, it ain’t been easy! And I don’t know that I have been a “good little Episcopalian” and stayed away from fear. Because to live without it….and put the emphasis on faith….geez, maybe I should’ve tried to give up coffee.
At the same time, I haven’t been a total failure. It’s hard for me these days not to focus on faith when I can’t seem to go a day without some fleeting thought about God, God’s will, or some hymn goes through my head to remind me of the presence of God in my life. Even some of the secular songs I’ve been listening to have “God messages” in them.
I think events in the past few weeks have really helped to push me more on this path of fasting on fear. Shifts at St. John’s, followed by an intense and wonderful experience with my classmates in Gainesville, and the events that unfolded out of the House of Bishops meeting…all of those occurrences coming in the last few weeks have talked to fears I have of change, of acceptance, of love. And I have felt fear intensely, which (at least in the two cases of the church) also evolved into anger. But, with each episode, I have discovered faith: I have continued to show up and pay attention at church because I need to do that. I have found a way to move past that concern that if I “speak my truth” I will get my head handed to me on a platter. And I can trust that I am supported for who I am, was and will be into the future. So some very basic fears are shrinking. And as they shrink, there is even more room for faith, especially faith in me as supported and backed by a God who promises not to let me drift over a waterfall.
This is the last week of Lent, Holy Week. I’ve got some more time to get the fasting/feasting part right. I think I’m on the way, but it sure hasn’t been easy!
But that’s Lent for ya!