If there is one thing I succeed at in life, it is in being a "sinner." I have mastered the art of being a rather crappy person quite remarkably over the years. Competency in this area may come naturally to many, but I have taken it to new heights- having raised the ceiling of possibility to an entirely unimaginable level. I’m not stating this with any shred of pride or flippancy, but rather matter-of-factly, in a simple desire to speak plainly. I mean, let’s be real. The idea of being the chief of sinners is not lost on me.
As another Easter has come and gone, my full-time status as a career sinner invokes in me the need to avoid taking this time of year lightly. Contrary to popular belief, I value this season for reasons beyond just the Good Friday communion experience where I can consume wine and crackers and somehow chalk it up to a holy encounter. Rather, this time is meaningful to me because more than most, I know the degree to which I am completely jacked up, and oh-so desperately in need of a something or someone to redeem this pitiful life I lead.
That said, I find the 6 weeks of Lent leading up to Easter to be moderately interesting. Particularly, the things some people choose to give up. You always hear the same old same old, “I’m giving up chocolate”, “I’m giving up a fill-in-the-blank brand of beer”, “I’m giving up Facebook”, etc. The list of trivial less-than-consequential things people “give up” goes on and on. My response is usually to chuckle when I hear the more-than-manageable things people typically choose to “sacrifice” for Lent. For me, if I gave up television or candy, that’s not a big deal. Now, if I gave up wine or carbs, one might think I was actually the one in the wilderness for 40 days being tempted by the devil, or the one carrying the cross up Via Dolorosa. I suppose then that before I get all judgey and under-impressed with those who choose to give up something frivolous- like wearing heels or scratching their ass for six weeks- I have to ask myself, what is the point? What is intended to be accomplished during the Lenten season of spiritual fasting? Is it to merely participate in a tradition that represents the season between winter and summer (the word “lent” simply means “spring”), or the idea of self-denial, abstaining, and identifying with the social implications of Jesus’ sacrifice? Is it a time to step back, refocus, take stock, and spend the time in self-reflection, meditation, soul-searching, and repentance? Perhaps for some it is merely the necessary amount of time required to recover from Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, or Carnival celebrations and the ensuing hangovers and required rounds of penicillin treatments.
Depending on how one answers the above question, this may help define the appropriate item to give up for Lent. For instance, if the answer is tradition, I’d like to give up annoying people, exercise, and bras. If the answer is self-denial, then perhaps I should give up non-work related internet use, Nordstrom, and cheese. But, if I really wanted a reprieve from the things that stand in the way of me living the most meaningful life and that would reaffirm my commitment to my faith, then perhaps I should simply give up being a self-indulgent bitch for 40 days?
Let’s be honest, that probably won’t ever happen. I wouldn’t make it from Ash Wednesday to the following Sunday, much less through an entire page of the calendar to Holy Week. Even if I could manage 6 weeks of not being so crappy, would that somehow atone for being a self-serving schmoe for the other 46 weeks in the year? Does that make Lent the spiritual equivalent of a timeout? Now now, give me some credit, just because I attend far more happy hours than church services throughout the year, it doesn’t mean my theology is that backasswards. I will gladly speak up and confirm that I am very much a fallen person and in desperate need of a generous serving of grace.
Grace is an interesting thing. Recently, I was sitting in traffic, mulling over a particular situation where someone had defrauded me, and was getting ahead at my expense and by less-than-honorable means. As I did so, I found myself growing more indignant and demanding justice with each passing second (picture me shaking my clenched fist towards the heavens). Suddenly, I felt an all too familiar thump on the walls of my heart and mind, and the voice of wisdom began prodding me with the question, “Really, Rachelle? Are you someone who really should be demanding justice?” It stopped my thoughts dead in their tracks as I chewed on the idea of why I felt I deserved justice in this situation. The error of my thinking hit me like a freight train- would I want to have justice served for the things I have done wrong in my life, the times when I have been the offender, or the one to not play fair or to gain an advantage at the cost of someone else? Even in the moments where a careless action seemed victimless, would I really want justice?
But that is the thing about justice, we always want it for ourselves when we have been wronged. Rarely do we ever demand justice when we have been the one in the wrong and are skating free from the consequences we in all fairness deserve. When our own ass is in the frying pan, we prefer to be moved to a back burner and simmered in grace, rather than being left to boil far past the point of al dente. Since I am a complete failure in 90% of the situations in my life, wouldn’t wisdom suggest that I don’t demand justice, but rather extend grace as much as possible, and only demand justice in selfless situations, on behalf of those who can’t defend themselves?
Maybe next year I will have the self-discipline to give up being a complete and total assface for Lent. But in the mean-time, I think I will choose to apply my energy towards pleading for social justice on behalf of those who don’t have a voice and are overlooked by the masses, and imparting grace to those who have wronged me. And if the distractions of annoying people on the internet, shopping at Nordstrom, scratching my ass, or eating cheese derails my good intentions -that’s ok. Because I already know my only hope is grace over justice. And since I never have a shortage of wine and crackers around, I can always have my own impromptu communion experience to be reminded all through the year of where this is found.