Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What are you giving up for Lent?

Rev. Gini Gerbasi
"What are you giving up for Lent?" It seemed all my friends were Catholic when I was growing up, and at some mysterious time in the midwinter they would begin asking. "Chocolate" was what I remember everyone saying until we got to 8th grade or so, when it changed to "cursing." Someone always suggested "homework," and we would laugh. Although for my friends the question carried no more religious import than, "What did you get for Christmas?" the question always carried a sting of exclusion and rejection for me. 

My siblings and I were all baptized, but that was the full extent of religious practice for my parents. Another wing of the family was religious, but their evangelical faith was pretty intimidating. I loved going to church with my Catholic friends. Though I wouldn't have recognized it at the time, the formal liturgy fed a deep spiritual longing in me. I loved the Catholic worship, but I was an outsider. I did not have a First Holy Communion veil to show off like a bride. I thumbed through the announcements during Communion, feigning interest as I hid my face in shame. I skipped sleepovers the years my friends were doing CCD. "What are you giving up for Lent" was a reminder of both my yearning for closeness with God, and my exclusion from it. 

Even after I found my way to the Episcopal Church, I never even thought about giving up something for Lent. Instead I took things on: service projects, spiritual practices, more church services. Even as an adult, I never knew anyone to get much beyond the "chocolate," "cursing," or "homework" level in what they would do to practice a holy Lent. And now I'm almost a half a century old, an ordained minister, and part of me still smarts from those old wounds when I was an outsider – unwelcome in the Roman Catholic Church, and put off by (and thus rejected by) the "All-Jesus-All-The-Time" faith of my extended family. Lent is a time for spiritual growth and examination, and yet for a tiny, insecure part of me, it is frozen in time as an archaic discipline with no real meaning other than to tell me that I am invisible to God. I suspect giving THAT idea up for Lent would be a good thing to try.

So this year I'm wondering, "What can Lent be for me now?" What can I do for myself that will set these weeks apart from the rest of the year? What can I do in my daily life that will help me to know – even in that little part that still doubts – that I am beloved by God? What change in rhythm will speak to my soul? What will speak to yours?

Rev. Gini Gerbasi is the assistant rector at St. John's, Lafayette Square. What change in rhythm will speak to your soulShare your thoughts and comments on Facebook