Noted: This coming Sunday is Easter, so I thought I would take a brief moment and talk about what Lent and Easter mean to me. The first half is light on theology, so if you’re not interested in what I have to say on Easter, feel free to stop reading at the photo of the Easter Vigil.
So first off – Lent. For a lot of people, it means giving something up – like chocolate or alcohol. I’ve done those before, and more with the alcohol than the chocolate, it gives you some clarity. It lets you think more purposefully about why you are putting the things in your body that you are. It made for some awkward dates with The Boy (who is not religious at all) where he felt guilty about drinking when I was not. I told him not to be silly – this was my Lenten discipline, not his, so go ahead and order whatever he wants. I’ve also given up meat a couple times. The meat years were difficult – I remember telling my mother one of those times that all I wanted for brunch on Easter morning was a big pile of bacon. She obliged. I’m trying to remember if she actually made a bacon easter basket for me…probably not.
This year, I did something slightly different and I took on a goal. Since I’ve been very unhappy with the level of physical activity I’ve been doing for the past few months, I decided I wanted to jump-start a habit, and what better way than through a Lenten discipline? So I made a goal of 15 minutes of active walking every day – that’s 15 minutes in a row of walking with purpose. Not dawdling, not stopping. Most of it was walking in place indoors (when the weather was crummy). Some were using walking workout videos. Some were on a treadmill. And the nicest ones were outdoors.
A friend of mine suggested on Shrove Tuesday that I should get my Fitbit to help me keep track. I set my “active minutes” goal to 15 minutes, and every day when I achieved it, I got a little star. Seeing the number of stars in a row has been fantastic encouragement, and being able to achieve that each day has encouraged me to do better, and walk more than I’ve been doing. I started taking short walking breaks in the library where I do a loop around the stacks – it gets me a few hundred steps each time, gets me away from looking at my screen too much, and helps me get a jump start on my total steps for the day. Not only have I lost a few pounds (the ones that stick to you when you’re lazy and not moving nearly enough), but the twitch I had in my eye this winter has disappeared. I’ll chalk that up to not staring at my computer for hours at a stretch with no break. Huzzah for positive changes!
Has it made me feel closer to God, which is the point of taking on a Lenten discipline? Probably not as much as it should have. Has it made me pay closer attention to my body – what I put in it and how I’m using it? Definitely. And the best part is that as a discipline, something that requires active engagement and thought to do, I may have jump-started a habit. Will I be content to see the pitiful step totals that I was achieving mere weeks ago? Nope. I’ll know that I can do better, and I will strive to do better week by week.
Sunday itself is Easter. And while you all may know that I’m faithful and go to church regularly, I won’t be there on Sunday morning. *Cue record scratch*. Let me explain – a few years ago one of the young priests at our church got excited about the Easter Vigil. She wanted to do a bonfire and have a feast afterwards where all who attended could break the Lenten fast together. Plus, she mused, if you go to the Easter Vigil you can sleep in on Easter Sunday. SOLD! So I’ll be making a dish for the feast (which I will of course share if it turns out yummy), and holding a candle, and reading one of the lessons (the dry bones – spooky!).
But the season and celebration itself makes me happy because as Episcopalians, we are “Easter People” – we celebrate Jesus risen, and do not focus on the pain and suffering. Yes, he suffered, but that shouldn’t be the all-encompassing focus, because the real message in Christianity is that Jesus lived again. If we focus too much on the Passion – the suffering, the death, the mourning – then we become bogged down in guilt…which is not the point. The point is new life and love. It’s why our church does not use a crucifix, and instead has an empty cross.
And that’s how I’m going to tie together my Lenten discipline of walking more/focusing on physical health with Easter. We are called to look at our lives AFTER radical salvation – we know we are saved, so how are you going to live your life now? How can you be the better person? For me, that doesn’t mean denying myself the good things – it means taking on more ambitious goals to be a better person – emotionally, spiritually…physically. I can be worthy of