"We escape the essential work of Lent if we turn it into some kind of spiritual Olympics in which we suffer for forty days to win Easter. This isn’t about proving our holiness; Lent is about waking up and remembering who we are and what we are here for. " Porter Taylor, Episcopal Bishop of Western NC
Today is the day that Catholics along with some other denominations start Lent. Forty days of the desert as Friar Tom likes to point out. Before converting, I saw Lent as a time to give up a bunch of things aka make oneself suffer as much as possible. And it's clear from my Facebook feed that this is how a lot of people still view Lent. My view has changed though and last year upon ending Lent I vowed to do it different. And then came Jude...who shook my world up. Suddenly Lent has taken on a whole new meaning for me.
At this point in my life, I see Lent as a way of becoming "Christian" ask Christ like. No matter your feelings on Christianity, I think that most people can get behind the idea of Christ as a great teacher of compassion, humility, holiness, love, peace, etc. These are qualities I don't always possess. I am angry, impatience, bitter, mean, petty, and not always nice. And sometimes I forget that this is not really who I want to be, or even that it's easier just to be a nasty person. Lent is a time, I think, to reset ourselves. A ritual to remind us of our common humanity (aka the dust on our forehead reminding us of our mortality, something all humans share. We all will die), as well a ritual time set aside to bring us face to face with what we may have left at the side of the road during the year.
Lent is not about taking on some great characteristics for 40 days and then returning back to the ego self. Christ, after all, did not emerge from the desert unchanged. Lent is the time where we can set ourselves back on the road to being better human beings. It is a time to clear away that what keeps us from being better people.
Jude woke me up to many uncomfortable things about myself. As I struggled through the dark times of carrying her in my womb, I often thought back to Friar Tom's homilies about the desert. In this desert, I would not say I suffered so much as I was forced to look upon the face of my own ugliness. There was nothing else to distract me from the things that I hid in the dark places of my being. What is crucial is that I didn't feel shame when I did this...rather I felt an incredible sadness. Now let me be clear, Jude did not do these things to me. Rather how I responded to the news informed the things I began to examine. I don't like the idea of viewing Jude as a lesson. She is a person not some kind of moral play. But because of how I see the world, I spent most of my pregnancy reflecting on disabilities, and how I signified those with disabilities.
This Lent I want to spend some time reflecting on what I learned as I struggled to imagine my world with a child who has a cognitive disability. A child who may very well face some physical disabilities as well. A child who will wear her difference on her face in ways that many people find hard to look at. In ways that many people do not find lovely or beautiful or perfect. I also want to spend some time thinking about other groups who have signification forced upon them. People who have to struggle against definition by others. I want to search out groups of people whom I have forgotten to think about because they did not intersect with my life in some kind of personal way.
Thus I am committing to blogging for 40 days about disabilities, immigration, race, gay rights, gender, etc. I want to be bold in my defense of what it might mean to give human rights to all humans. I also want to think about beauty, intelligence, values, qualities, etc. It's a tough order but it's how I process my world. I was attracted to Catholicism for a variety of reasons, and while I don't always agree with all the Church does, I do find myself attracted to the way the church champions the right of many of the down trodden (and I often wish she'd do more but that will come forth I'm sure). And I think that the Christ I am attracted to is the one who whipped the money lenders out of the temple, the one who feed the poor on the mountain, the one who surrounded himself with prostitutes, tax collectors, and the disabled. This Christ inspires me to make myself into a better human, a more compassionate person. Indeed he makes me want to wake up to that which I am here to do. And not because I am afraid to go to hell but because hell is here and I wish to improve that condition for all.