This week I drank a glass of merlot at happy hour. It was no big deal to anyone except me. For many years, I gave up alcohol for Lent. I felt like I needed to rethink my ritual, so I decided I would be easier on myself. I’m calling this a “soft Lent.” I would mostly give up chocolate and alcohol. If I felt like I needed to be looser and kinder to myself, I would have a damn drink or eat a silly cookie.
I have been thinking about hope. It’s Lent just now, so church is 80% repenting, buoyed by 20% hope. We couldn’t have Lent at all if we didn’t know Easter party time was at the end. The arrangements on the altar now are brown branches, no green at all. Somebody wrapped our cross in scarlet film this year, rather than covering St. Peter, Christ, and St. John the Evangelist with our Lenten screen. I was glad. The screen is fine: a crown of thorns, a chalice and wafer. I really miss the paintings of the guys when they’re covered up, though. I like to see them and be like, what’s up, guys?
I ordered the wine after I got invited to happy hour and realized that I was feeling pretty down, and I ought to go wrap myself in the company of cheerful people. So I drank my wine, sort of expecting to be struck by lighting, but instead laughing at how we faced a whole table of men, all of whom seemed to be staring at us, since The Game was on the TVs right above our heads.
The lesson last Sunday was about Abram (still Abram) being shown all the stars. God says, I’m going to give you all these descendants, and Abram is like, yeah, right. Then some creepy stuff happens where God proves He means it by levitating a torch through the halves of a goat carcass or something. (I tried humor the author here, since he was writing a bazillion years ago.)
This story is about expanding horizons. It’s someone saying, “This place is huge. Big. No, bigger. Much bigger. Your life could be much, much bigger.” So big that it’s okay to stop drinking wine for a while if it makes you feel like an A-plus Episcopalian, and it’s also okay to settle for a C, or even an F if your day is a stupid F level day.
Lent is a good time to try to refocus yourself, which could mean experimenting with limits. I have benefited from these limits– learned about how painful and how silly it is when fear you will DIE without a cookie. Craving a cookie, I can often laugh at myself and the whole world. Life is just full of ridiculous burning cravings that could could quickly fade if you are watching for favorite TV show.
This year, I think my more important challenge is to see the big picture, the full sky, and consider which limits are healthy, and which ones make me feel small and hopeless.