Lent, for me, is almost over. My Lent began right before Christmas, after I woke up in the middle of the night with excruciating abdominal pain. Two days after Christmas, I got an ultrasound and the news that I had gallstones. If I ate nothing but fresh fruits, barely cooked vegetables, nine grain bread, and tea, I felt fine. But one meal of Chinese take-out and a small glass of wine put me right back in bed, in awful pain. My middle-aged sinfulness of less-than-optimum eating habits (high-calorie lattes, sweets, and wine) had caught up with me.
After having surgery in early January, I had six weeks ahead of me, under doctor’s orders to rest, let my four incisions heal, and gradually return to my regular diet and exercise routine. Six weeks of resting, eating healthy foods and healthy foods only, no alcohol, and taking time off to heal? That’s my Lent this year, I decided.
After nearly six weeks of a low-fat diet and tea, I feel great. This six weeks of rest, reflection, quiet reading, and staying off my feet was exactly what I needed. As I get back to taking walks around the farm again, I notice the Lenten roses amassed along the edge of the forest, and I realize that the Lenten roses seem to think it’s time for Lent as well. If the flowers are any clue, Lent doesn’t have to follow a prescribed time on the calendar. It happens when it happens.
We all need a Lent from time to time. Everybody goes through difficult years and almost overwhelming challenges. Every so often, we all need to take a few weeks off to eat healthy foods, give up excess baggage of all kinds that weighs on our minds and bodies, and to rest and reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going.
Lent is a practice, not a season, and not a time to simply give up chocolate for the glory of God. We are what we do repeatedly, and sometimes, we need to take six weeks to recalibrate our daily habits in order to achieve wholeness and fitness for the next big challenges in our lives.
The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction by Justin Whitmel Earley. Excellent resource for busy professionals who want to incorporate Christian spiritual practices into their daily lives. Written by a lawyer, this book gives real world tips on how to reign in social media use, block out the constant noise of the media, and keep yourself well-grounded and sane. Highly recommend. Just published, in paperback and e-book editions. Perfect for Lent and all seasons of recalibration.
Cynthia Coe is the author of Wild Faith, a collection of liturgies, learning activities, discussion questions, and prayers to lead young people and adults in care of God’s creation while participating in the natural world itself.