I’m not giving up anything for Lent.
I thought about it but I didn’t think hard enough, and I don’t like doing things just because. I’ve observed Lent before but for some reason this year I couldn’t wrap my brain around exactly what the fasting was for, why we remind ourselves that we are but dust, and what my participation should mean to me. This morning before the service started I even wikipediaed Lent. What am I doing? What should I be doing?
That’s actually a pretty common theme for a lot of my life right now.
An area where I’ve recently realized how hopelessly out of depth I am is reconciliation and intersectional justice. I’ve finally been been hit in the face with the fact that my whiteness matters. It matters because the color of my skin links me to a centuries-long history of oppression. I cannot be blind to it. So here I am and here I believe that black lives matter and our prisons are unjustly filled and our borders are oppressively guarded, but what do I do about it? I cannot be an expert on the experience of lives I have not lived; I do not believe in being a voice for the voiceless, because everyone has a voice, so how do I amplify?
These thoughts all crossed paths this morning for me as I stumbled through Rite I. After being exhorted to bow down before the Lord, these words were spoken over me.
Grant, Almighty God, that thy people may recognize their weakness and put their whole trust in thy strength.
To be honest at first take I was slightly offended, in the same way that I was last night in the IKEA parking lot when a stranger had to help me load my mattress in the car. I can do it myself! Plus I grew up in a tradition where humility was key, where it was important to die to self and to subjugate the flesh, and I have had to retrain myself to realize that I am worth valuing (and not just when follow God correctly). I am not weak.
But that’s not what this is about. All of my helplessness can turn to hope when I recognize my weakness and stop trying to pit my own tiny introverted strength against the force of evil and oppression. I’d be silly to trust only myself to tackle systemic racism or poverty or transphobia.
So maybe this is the point of Lent. To remind myself that this isn’t about me. Not for the sake of put-upon humility and sackcloth and ashes, but as an honest reminder of who can be trusted when I feel the smallest.
And honestly, I should have known, right?
Isaiah 58:6-7, 9b-10
Is this not the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry, and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.
I didn’t choose a particular vice to give up this year. Instead I think I am giving up on the idea that God’s strength can reach no further than mine.
[See also: my good friend Stephanie’s post about corporate confession for racism.]