Personal – Lent and Easter

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.

Photo Credit
Photo Credit

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.

Fitbit - stars for active minutes!

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.

Photo by Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, CC BY-ND 2.0. Yes, I see the humor in using a photo of a Catholic church, but it's a great picture that's very evocative.
Photo by Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, CC BY-ND 2.0. Yes, I see the humor in using a photo of a Catholic church, but it’s a great picture that’s very evocative.

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

3 Comment

  1. Nicole says: Reply

    Great post, Maggie! You reminded me of one of the things that makes the Episcopal Church different, and the right church for me: the focus on love and hope and joy in salvation; not the drudgery and suffering of a fallen world. Knowing and trying to understand the suffering is important, but not the point, as you said. I often wish I had grown up in the Episcopal Church, with an appreciation of and sense for the changing liturgical seasons, the transformation of colors and symbols used in worship services through the year. I often forget that Easter is approaching until it’s right on top of me, and engaging in Lent has been in part for me a practice of mindful anticipation of Christ’s rising (at least, the celebration thereof. We’ll leave the chronology of that actual event vs. Paganism to another post).
    To me, Lent is not necessarily a time of sacrifice for sacrifice’s sake; but rather a time to live more in line with the values of Christ, which is hard to do. I try to pick a discipline that doesn’t just deny me joy, but helps bring my life in line with His values. That’s why I usually give up meat. Not because I think God wants us to be vegetarian (he doesn’t), but because the industrial food complex in our nation. including the way we raise, butcher, and process meat, is responsible for a huge chunk of greenhouse gases we emit every year. Besides not having children, giving up meat is arguably the most impactful action one can take to reduce their carbon footprint. And I believe that we must be stewards of God’s Creation, and that we are generally doing a horrible job at that.

    1. maggie says: Reply

      I completely agree with the spirit of what you’re saying – Lent is a time to put ourselves in proper alignment with God’s wants for the world. And nobody is going to volunteer to become ascetic overnight, so it’s more finding the thing that you can do now (for these 40 days – and perhaps beyond?) that remove our barriers from closeness with God. So whether you repair your relationship with the earth (through things like giving up meat), with yourself (trying to take care of your body like I am), with others (making an effort to reach out to friends and neighbors in need), or with Godself (through prayer or whatever), there are so many more interesting and impactful things to do for Lent than simply refraining from eating sweets. 🙂

      1. Nicole says:

        And taking care of your body and your self is certainly that!! Like the Earth, our bodies were given to us by a loving God, and they enable us to do all the things on this Earth that bring us joy and bring him glory! Loving yourself is certainly a way of loving God, I think, and caring for yourself is certainly a discipline!

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