“I can strive every day to make the right choices – and God will be with me. God wants me to choose, of my own free will, to be aligned with His will.”
This Easter season, my faith has been changed. And it’s a result of what I gave up for Lent: exactly nothing. Is it a result of what I took on for Lent? Yes, but the answer may surprise you. What I took on for Lent was indulgence. Shocking. Scandalous. Unintentional. But it truly changed me. After all, isn’t that what Lent is supposed to do
Like most good Episcopalians, my husband and I talked for weeks about what we would give up or take on for Lent. But, like New Year’s Resolutions, our grand ideas passed with the days. We skipped the church pancake supper. Awful. Ash Wednesday passed without our family’s darkening the church door. Ridiculous! I floated through the busy days in shock that we didn’t go. Our kids were upset with us (I guess we’ve raised them right).
As we moved into the season, we found ourselves eating out more, drinking more, getting busier and overwhelmed with work. It was like we were celebrating a bit of contorted Easter season during Lent. Appropriately, my husband named this season of ours Opposite Lent.
By taking on indulgence for Lent, I experienced a revelation: I have choices. Choices are what Lent was about this year. I realized that I can choose to indulge – and God will be with me. I will make the wrong choices – and God will be with me. I can strive every day to make the right choices – and God will be with me. God wants me to choose, of my own free will, to be aligned with His will.
As a result of the indulgence of Lent, I have chosen freely to start eating more healthfully and to exercise. I started running. I hate running, but my body enjoys the exercise. My Easter season is full of new life – eating plants and fruits, experiencing God’s creation and season of rebirth by running and exercising outside, more careful consideration of what I put into the body God gave me with which to bear His love into the world.
I know that God loves me apart choices I make and because of that, I will try even harder from now on to be intentional, to listen to what God wants for and of me, and to make the best choices I can each day.
Connecting with God
At the Cathedral where I work, we had many Lenten opportunities to hear speaking, preaching, teaching, singing and more. And there was food — lots of wonderful food prepared by our amazing chef and her team of dedicated volunteers. My husband commented one evening, “How come there’s so much feasting here during Lent?” We were indulging in great spiritual learning, community, mission and – feasting! Churches work so hard during Lent. Maybe we are all practicing Opposite Lent. The richness of all of this activity might better fit the joyful Easter season.
God gave us all the freedom to choose – in order that we might repent to love and generosity. This Lent I chose to indulge. Lo and behold, God redeemed that choice by working in me through it.
This Easter season I celebrate with joy the freedom God has given me to choose have a relationship with Him, a dialogue, a covenant – a chosen commitment of care and love in gratitude and response to His love.
In future Lenten seasons, Christians and church communities can choose to indulge… Indulge in being: letting go, relaxing, resting, and preparing ourselves to burst into the world like new blossoms filled with a spirit of generosity, mission, and love.
Carrie Graves is the director of Trinity Cathedral Bookstore in Columbia, SC, and President of the Episcopal Booksellers Association. She has served as an EfM mentor and Confirmation teacher at St. Martin’s-In-The-Fields, Columbia, SC, and currently serves there as a lector and Eucharist minister.
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