At Christmas time, I joined our Senior Section on a ferris wheel once again to make a promise. Part of that promise was to develop my beliefs.
They are constantly evolving.
I think it’s easy to assume that as a Christian, that I signed up to a set of beliefs and religious rules and rituals and committed to keeping them. But truth is, as I see the world, learn more, study the bible, converse with friends, strangers and God – I’m always questioning, always considering, always trying to work things out.
There are parts of the Christian festivals that I struggle with. Pancake Day though is a ritual I love and try to stick to. I’ll be honest, my incentive often has more to do with fun traditions of making pancakes and tossing them than God. But at the same time the tradition marks a moment to start Lent – preparing for Easter and the fear, mourning, confusion and celebrating that came with in the space of three days many, many years ago.
Last night I gathered with some Jesus freak friends (I say that with love…!) and we had a time of prayer as we always do on the first Tuesday of each month. We then ripped apart round loaf of olive bread, shared glasses of wine (grape juice for me) to do what is known as communion before making pancakes. For those of you who don’t know, Jesus shared a meal in a home just before he was arrested – and asked his disciples to routinely break bread and share wine together in remembrance of Him and His sacrifice. These days, many churches mark it in a service with a shot glass and a teeny bits of bread. I won’t lie – it makes me a wee bit angry that they do it like that because I think it’s a bit of an insult to Jesus really. There is something far more real about a good chunk of bread and a generous glass of wine to symbolise it all!
There is much chat that has gone on this week amongst Christians bemoaning people giving up things for Lent and what they are giving up for Lent. Personally I think you should do or not do what you feel is right. If you want to use this season to abstain from something – go ahead. I don’t mind you using this season to do that. Perhaps it isn’t what God really cares about – but I don’t honestly know.
Over the years I’ve done different things. My uni friends still recall the year I gave up straightening my hair for Lent. It was much tougher than I care to admit. It says a lot about my vanity, and I never considered myself as one of those girls who are obsessed with their looks. Other years I’ve given up things that weren’t that tough to give up. One year I took up doing random acts of kindness each day when we did The Art of Joy. Last year I didn’t do or give up anything.
These last few months, I feel challenged – whether by God or otherwise – to consider how I spend my money and where I spend my money. I’ve been wrestling with whether I should go to the cheap places like Primark or Aldi so I can save money, and maybe make it seem better by giving the money saved to charity? Or do I spend more by supporting local businesses, that are perhaps running more ethical practices, and maybe benefitting the vibrancy of the economy? Do I go to the big corporate cinema showing the trashy blockbusters, or do I go to the independent one that is showing films “where stuff actually happens” (to quote from Lupita Nyong’o) and telling important stories that matter? Do I focus my time more carefully so I’m not running into the many local ‘metro’ supermarkets that are undercutting small businesses on my way to and form work by bringing a reusable flask of water from home, or maybe going into the little corner shop or health food shop instead?
And is it ok to have a greater focus on doing this during Lent? Is it even something God cares about?
I don’t know that I have the answer, but I’m going to try it anyway – and not necessarily stop after Lent but perhaps as a friend of a friend put it on facebook
”I am thinking that giving up chocolate for 40 days, but being a complete a55hole about everything else is not exactly what God has(d) in mind. So in honour of Lent, and regardless of your religious or non-religious leanings, let’s all just try to suck a little less. We can all use it.”
That sounds good to me. A start at the very least.