Today is Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of the Christian season of Lent. Lent is the 40 days before Easter, means "Spring," and remembers the story of Jesus fasting for 40 days in the wilderness before his persecution and death. I heard recently that more people attend church on Ash Wednesday than on Easter. Could that be true?!
If it is, I have a guess as to why. There's something in us that knows, despite everything popular culture tells us, that we need to pay attention to suffering to be whole. We can't stuff ourselves on the dessert section of the buffet forever or we'll get sick.
Lots of folks acknowledge this reality during Lent by giving up sugar. Or alcohol. Or Facebook. All of those might be good practices, but the Pope suggests we fast from indifference to others. Gotta love that guy. He quotes Christian mystic John Chrysostom who says, ""No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great." Crap. Good point.
I need that discipline--a fast from indifference to others. The Pope goes so far as so say that we're experiencing a "globalization of indifference," and I've felt it myself as a barrage of fresh news stories rolls across my feed every day and I feel weary.
I've done a lot of thinking in my life about what I say "yes," to, what I say "no" to, and when it's time for neither--just to go with the flow. The way we manage our calendars, our energy, our relationships, and our money shows what's important to us, what we're indifferent to, and there are always choices to make. What do we say "yes" to? What do we say "no" to?
I'll be writing every day for Lent. (Or doing my very best.) And it will be largely be around this theme of "Yes, No, or Go with the Flow." I can't believe I'm doing this to myself, but it's my "yes" during these crazy times, a way to embrace imperfection, stay engaged, create a little hollow of meaning and sanctity, and say "no" being just a consumer. I'm a creator, too, and I know of no better way to resist indifference than to make things.
I hope to notice during these 40 days where my energy is going--to not run away from suffering, to keep caring, to walk with Jesus through the desert when he was tempted to save himself with money, power, importance, and influence. (Not that any of us every struggle with that 2,000 years later.)
If you're not a Jesus Person, please come on this journey with me anyway. For a long time I've been unsure about who Jesus was, but that hasn't kept me from being inspired by him and changing the way I live because of it. I've got more questions than answers, and I think that's the way I like it.