Learning to Bend

In my early years of observing Lent, I was extremely strict with myself in regards to whatever sacrifice I happened to be making. There were no excuses, no loop holes, no skipping out on Sundays, no forgiveness, NO MERCY!  It was go big or go home, all or nothing, perfection or despair. Although I was always very clear that I never expected anyone else to follow suit or live by my Lenten restrictions, what I have learned over time is being around that version of me is incredibly annoying for everyone else. Others were constantly having to adjust their lives to meet my needs. I found that by marching around and trumpeting my “look at me and my Lenten goodness” others felt compelled to accommodate me. Even if I didn’t ask or want them to, some simply did it because they wanted to be supportive in the way that friends and family often give their support to whatever whack-o thing you’re up to at any given moment. (And, forget Lent for a minute, I have quite a track record in taking up whack-o things…)

I like to think I have improved on this front, but I also know it’s an area where I still need work. Last year (where I gave up going out to eat), I thought I was being super clever for a work-related offsite event by offering to bring lunch and happy hour fixins. I learned later that the sandwiches that I brought were not on a colleague’s low carb diet, not to mention he had to make special arrangements with the location for me to bring my food, but he was gracious enough not to stand in my way. And I believe an element of this discipline is not to make a big fuss about what you are doing, so writing blog posts about the whole business probably doesn’t help my cause either.

Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.  ~Matthew 6, verse 1

This year I decided to be more conscientious about not taking those around me through my personal journey of Lenten sacrifice. Okay, obviously writing this post invites people to go along the journey with me in some respects; so to clarify, I mean I am working hard not to inflict my offline, “real life,” Lenten choices on others. As far as my online presence goes, people can choose whether or not to read this post, or whether they even agree with my sentiments. Perhaps I really shouldn’t be writing about my experience with Lent – at least not on a blog, but that will have to be a struggle for another season.

What this really means is that I have to make a conscious choice to set aside perfect devotion to my sacrifice. Sometimes I have to live with my own inability to fulfill the commitment I have made. This past Friday we got together with friends we hadn’t seen in some months. Our usual tradition involves getting together for a meal and then watching a movie or catching up on the reality shows they know I like that are on cable, which we don’t have. I was very conflicted about how to handle this situation since I gave up TV for Lent. I initially suggested we get together on Sunday because there is a bit of a loophole with Lent on Sundays, but I actually keep to my discipline on Sundays, so I still would have felt like I was cheating in my heart. {As an aside, I do this because when I think of Jesus out in the wilderness for 40 days being tempted by Satan, I’m guessing he wasn’t taking Sundays off…} I considered telling them I had given up TV and movies for Lent, but it just felt like I would have been making them suffer for my choices which was exactly what I did not want to do. I also considered that perhaps I could have waited to see them until after Easter. In the end we did get together and we did watch TV – and, yes, I ‘inhaled’ – and, yes, I had mixed feelings about that. But one of the things I also learned was the reason why we hadn’t heard from them in so long. They had been experiencing some personal challenges on a couple of different fronts and we were able to listen to them, give them our empathy and show that we cared about what was going on in their life by our presence. Does that excuse my breaking my commitment not to watch TV?  Honestly, no, and I have to live with my own disappointment about that. Am I glad we made the choice to go see them and not burden them with my TV-free life, absolutely.

The green reed which bends in the wind is stronger than the mighty oak which breaks in a storm. ~Confucius


7 Comments on “Learning to Bend”

  1. JoeHawes says:

    I especially liked the “Whack-O” part. That’s my daughter! I beamed proudly.

  2. Rich Kenney says:

    A TV-free life… I admire you. Keep it up.

  3. Gail Murray says:

    Very thoughtful (per usual). Had a similar experience on my recent trip. I was trying not to eat processed flour foods. My brother had arrived at the empty house a day early and bought groceries for the first day: cereal & toast for brkfst, sandwiches for lunch. Being together and his thoughtfulness in doing the shopping was more important than what went into my mouth. (Doesn’t St Paul have something to say about that?)

  4. Karla says:

    Oh, I so see myself in you… (although I have NEVER been successful in keeping a lenten discipline well.)… hard on myself in a way that stretches others’ patience, ingenuity and/or attention span. I am so thankful they are generous with me! Thanks for your clarity and open self-observation. Bless you.

  5. Randall Mullins says:

    Lyda, your proud father encouraged me to take a look at your blog and I’m glad I did. Thank you for your story and reflections about keeping Lenten practices without making idols out of them. And your earlier blog about visiting churches is so good. It is fascinating to see the large number of responses you got.

    • Lyda K. Hawes says:

      Thank you for the kind words, Randall! I will be spending time with Spirit of Peace this weekend for their annual retreat and I’m sure they will be glad to know we’ve been in touch.

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