Thursday, April 14, 2011
Orthograph #129 - Lenten Disasters
I thought about letting this stand alone, but as my 12th anniversary of becoming Orthodox looms in a few days I figured I'd add some personal annotation.
My first Lents were "successful" because I thought they were. I encountered the disciplines of the Church and I kept the fasts and attended the services relatively strictly. Of course I was tempted and "failed" in some ways and in good conscience and zealous humility I acknowledged my weakness and confronted my humanity. But Lent was a new toy. Or, in construction terms, a new tool. When I first got my unbelievably heavy 12" compound slider miter saw I gleefully hauled it everywhere.
After a dozen years, Lent has become less a "new toy" or a new tool and more of a "real job". Now when I have a job that REQUIRES my 12" saw, I reluctantly carry it from the shed to the truck and do the set up on the job site. But I need it to do the job well. Lent has become much the same thing. I love Lent, but it is also a heavy tool that I'd rather avoid using if possible.
The problem is Lent is like a "real job" now. But it has no time card to punch, no Human Resources Company Rules and write ups that go in my employee file if I screw up. The "threat of discipline or termination" is entirely in my own mind and imagination of my relationship with God and the Church. I've discovered that, once the novelty wore off and Lent isn't fun or some kind of ego trip or contest anymore, without a tangible "boss" hovering over me, I slack.
I think now after a dozen years, Lent is finally becoming real. The disasters are more real than the recipe gathering and label reading and chat room discussions of fasting and prayer fed by novelty and zeal without knowledge. Yes, certainly I learned some things in the early years, but they were things I knew from what I was reading that I was supposed to learn. But I think they were not true fruit but only seeds, and those seeds are just beginning to sprout and perhaps bear some flower. I am not willing to say they are even truly bearing fruit yet.
So in my second year of abject Lenten disasters, this year was not as bad as the last in some ways. The main difference this year is the lack of guilt and the enhanced sobriety. Less a focus on the plate and more a focus on the soul. Less a focus on the ingredients on the labels and more a focus on what makes up my character. Maybe I needed to finally utterly fail in order to finally strip away the facades and the "passion of novelty" and find the true function of the tools.
Perhaps I am on the downhill side of the graph. I hope so. At this point it is a projection and prognostication, not an experience.
My prognostication in the short run is I will watch this Holy Week from a spiritual distance and follow Christ to the Cross from afar... which is where I fancied myself in years past because I knew that was where I was told in the books that I was "supposed to be". Maybe in another dozen years I'll figure out where I really am this year.
Until then, I guess I'll just try to keep the Cross in sight no matter how far I wander from the self sacrifice on Golgotha.