Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Failing Lent

In the church calender we are right in the midst of observing our most solemn season, Great Lent. This is a holy time of penence, where our gaze is on the Passion of our dear Savior, and we stand in the shadow of the cross looming high and terrible before us.

Many people give up something during Lent. The Orthodox faithful give up all animal products. So, for weeks now, I should have been eating vegan. But I haven't been.

I start, but by dinner I end up eating whatever the rest of my family eats--my hubby is not Orthodox and is not observing the fast. The kids have trouble with it because they want to eat what Ken eats, too. There's also the foodstamps issue. It's already hard to feed my large family, and we can't really afford to buy two kinds of food. And to prepare both, if I had both, seems too hard for the chronic fatigue I feel. But these are just excuses really. I think if I really had the chuzpa, I could do it.

I'm not famous for pushing back the plate at this time in my life, and I feel horrible about my failure in this holy time. Just before the fast, the first week of the Lenten Triodian (three weeks before Great Lent begins), I sat in church and listened to Father Leo's homily about the publican and the sinner. (Okay, he didn't read from the Message, but you know me. I can't resist that book.)

Luke 18: 10-14

10"Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. 11The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: "Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people--robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. 12I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.'

13"Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, "God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.'"

14Jesus commented, "This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you're going to end up flat on your face, but if you're content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself." The Message

I'm failing lent, and I feel just like that sinner, slumped in shadows, hiding my face from God. And yet I need Him so badly that I just keep saying, 'forgive me' like its a mantra or a ceasless prayer. That seems to be my only contribution to Great Lent.

Last week I went to confession. It's recommended that one confess and receive absolution at least every few months, but a lot of people don't. I hadn't in a while because my car doesn't work and riding with someone I couldn't get there in time, but last week we were a wee bit early, and I was able to catch a few minutes with Father Leo.

Confession is a very different experience with a priest than when you confess just to God. It's humbling to say the least. Almost as soon as I began I just wept and wept. I always feel so unworthy. I don't really want to lose that feeling. I don't want to say how good I am--though I've been guilty of that, too. I just want to keep--must keep--asking for mercy.

I take comfort in the fact that the penitent went home made right with God, and again, I pray, Lord, have mercy on me a sinner. I'm glad that sweet Jesus, accepts my meager sacrifice because He is so good, and I am so needy.

I still have hope, however. Maybe I can still jump in and fast, and maybe all this has taught me to be humble when I do so. I don't know. I just want to do what's right, even though I can't do it, really. That's why I need mercy. May God give it.

Mair, the sinner.


Angie Poole said...

Claudia Mair,

Click. This one too.

Just how many of your posts am I gonna have to mark "keep as new"?

God Bless You.

Isaac, The Rookie said...

Hi: Caught your blog through YSMarko, and surfed over for the first time. So glad to see it's okay to admit when our faith and discipline are imperfect; truly recommend Mark Yaconelli's "Messy Spirituality" for a healthy dose of commiseration! I'm in the boat with you.

DuneFan said...

My beloved sister, I just want to tell you that I love you! You touch my soul with each posting. I pray for you daily! Go in peace...serve the Lord!

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I will pray that you find peace, but I'm not sure of how to identify with your predicament as I am Pentecostal!

bobbie said...

oh diva woman! so glad to hear the book has been birthed - can't wait to read it!!

fasting looks many different ways. maybe you can fast something else? maybe it doesn't need to be the 'great fast' but just a ragamuffin fast?? pick one thing that you can do, baby steps!!

miss you!

the prisoner's wife said...

i agree w/ the baby steps comment. take it one day at a time. you shouldn't feel bad. we all fall short of His glory. just make the committment to begins, anew.

i gave up eating Fast Food during Lent because it is something that i'm trying seriously to stop doing. so far i've kept it up, but i have been tempted. just remember that we are all human & our strength and endurance comes from God.

Heather Diane Tipton said...

Okay, I really don't have a comment on your post...

I just wanted to let you know how much I love you and most of all how much the Lord loves you... He looks down on His sweet Ragamuffin Diva and smiles.

Eudoxia, a lover of the Lord said...

DearSister, The Good News is that God loves you just as you are, you don't have to do a thing to stand before him -- it's already been done by our dear Savious and Lord, Jesus Christ. What he wants is a willing heart, and life turned over to him, a will and a mind that are adjusted to focus on him and him alone. Lent is not really about what we give up, but what we turn our attention to. Turn to him, daily, when you sit to eat, remind him that the simple act of preparing food and eating it is your gift to him of love, and obedience.

And go easy on yourself -- we all fall short of the glory of God, and yet! He Loves Us!

s-p said...

If you think you've done Lent right, you did it wrong. If how you do Lent does not bring you to the TRUE cry of Christian victory over sin: "God be merciful to me a sinner" you did it wrong. Blessed Lent!

Anonymous said...

Dear Claudia,

"Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 'Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!' These are all destined to perish with use because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgences."
Colossians 2:20-23

Lent, schment! When Jesus saved me out of lifeless Orthodoxy, this verse was one of many that jumped out at me, joyfully liberating me!

Bless you, dear Sister! Know that Jesus loves you-- no matter what you eat or don't eat!!!

With *much* love in Christ!

s-p said...

Ah, anonymous...the issue is not whether Jesus loves us regardless of what we eat, He does and that is sure; it is whether or not we can love Jesus purely when "we are enemies of the cross, whose god is our belly..." (Phil. 3:19) If that was your understanding of Orthodoxy, no wonder you left it. Lord have mercy.

Paula said...

Mair, the sinner. That's how you signed your post. May I alter it a bit?

Mar, the sinner. Saved by grace. Now beloved daughter of the King. Bride of the Bridegroom. Adored and totally accepted based on Christ's performance and not her own.

Mair, the beloved.

Anonymous said...

"After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?" (Gal. 3:3)

I've SO been there/done that. My intentions were totally sincere-- but somehow, sometime after being born-again I unwittingly, ultimately traded relationship for religion. This is something I still battle from time to time.
I loved the simple advice given to Martin Luther by his spiritual father in the film, "Luther":

"Say to Him, 'Jesus, I am yours. Save me."

Sister Paula, your words spoke to me, too (and put some tears in my eyes). Thank you so much for that much needed reminder!!!

Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me...