Wednesday, March 9, 2011

ashes to ashes, and back again...

i like Lent. it's like the Catholic's new year - a time to try to get it right again. and fail. and try again. in years past, i've tended towards superficial sacrifices during Lent (both my sister and i have pointedly being asked to not give up coffee for Lent, as the point is not to make other people sacrifice their sanity.)

claire's got a pretty good trend going with her rosary-a-day dedication project but i always flounder around for a bit. but this year, i knew almost right away what I wanted to do.

for the past few months, i've felt very drawn to the text of Matthew 6:25-34. For those people (like me) who don't have Scripture memorized, it goes as follows:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat (or drink), or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, 'What are we to eat?' or 'What are we to drink?' or 'What are we to wear?' All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.

for a person whose life is defined by an easy security and an intense amount of privilege, i worry. a lot. about most things. i worry about money. i worry about food. i worry about how i come across. i worry what you think of me. it all adds up to a lot of anxiety. and that anxiety keeps me from doing the things i might want to. i don't hug my homeless friends hard enough because i'm worried of what people will think. i don't donate as much money because i'm worried about finances. i don't open up to people because i'm worried about being judged. and i've begun to realize two things. that worry doesn't come from God. and that worry gets in the way of the authentic life i want to live. so i decided to change my life to address some of that worry.

breaking Matthew's words down into concrete action was a little tricky, but i think i've got it down.

for Lent I will be giving up:
  • eating out (unless in the company of friends). i spend A LOT of money on coffee. and then, when i worry about money, i keep drinking metropolis coffee and stop giving money to my homeless friends. not of God.
  • clothes i no longer wear. i cycle through the same 7 shirts. i have WAY more than 7 shirts in my closet. not of God.
  • self-deprecating statements. this one is gonna require strength of steel but i think i can do it. anxiety about myself=not of God.
for Lent, I will be adding:
  • weekly time in nature. to watch those grasses and flowers (or, in Chicago's case, dry branches and more dry branches) do their thing.
  • tithing to church and charity - i started doing this early and i feel super good. with my tiny donation, it's possible that a) my sister might go to Mexico (jealous!) and that my friend Melissa will be able to help some folks in El Salvador buy land for their church. i've also been able to give a little more to the folks i know on the streets who are struggling, which feels really good.
  • Sabbath time each day - I will set aside 15 minutes each day to pray/meditate/be with God amidst the hurry.
So, there it is! my personal interpretation of Matthew 6:25-34. We'll see how it goes...