On Lent and nonviolence

It’s Lent.

And I can feel the change in the air.

The stifling humidity of summer, the burning rays of sun that begin at dawn and end at dusk, are mellowing. The air at night is cool and clear. It keeps threatening to rain, but it never does.

I have never observed Lent. I grew up Baptist and it was never a “thing”. We sort of knew it was happening, and other people observed it, but it wasn’t something that meant anything to us. My sister started observing it several years ago, but I never asked her why…it just seemed like an extra rule to follow, another ritual to take part in to feel super spiritual. I didn’t want that pressure. So I never observed it.

But this morning I knew it was Shrove Tuesday, and I made sure we had pancakes. And tomorrow – I want to go to an Ash Wednesday service. I want to participate in Lent somehow this year. It would have to be low-pressure, low-key. Not because I can’t be bothered, but because I don’t want to promise to give up chocolate or TV and then not follow through. But maybe I will light a candle with my boys once a week, and say a simple prayer. (Sacraparental had some great ideas which I may be able to draw upon).

I desire more reflection and a slower, quieter approach to God these days. I like the idea of a rhythm. I’ve been trying to read along with the lectionary a little bit, although I keep missing days, because I haven’t made it a proper habit. Like everything right now, I am just trying to fit it in. I have stopped meditating in the evening after my boys fall asleep, and I miss it. I feel like every day I hold my breath to see what fresh hell is transpiring in the US or here in Australia. I am kind of tuning it out right now. I read it, I take a deep breath, and I move on, because I feel powerless to do much. And I like to pick my battles. And I like to have a considered approach. I am learning about nonviolence, and I want my words and actions to be nonviolent, even when I am raging internally. Nonviolence is about peace within, as well as peace without. It’s about having love and treating people with dignity simply because they are a human being, even when I fundamentally and vehemently disagree with them.

It is really, really hard.

About a year ago I watched online a gathering of people who came together to work on the Sanctuary movement – opening churches in Brisbane to protect asylum seekers who were in danger of being sent back to offshore detention. One of the speakers telling us as protesters that we needed to do the necessary spiritual work and reflection to take the anger that our opponents might send towards us, and to turn it back as love. I am finding that the necessary spiritual work and reflection to be like that is, well, never-ending, really. I don’t think I will ever have arrived in this regard. There will never be a moment when I am not tempted to turn back anger as anger, or insult as insult. But, as the saying goes, never repay anyone evil for evil…overcome evil with good…all I can do is simply try.

This Lent, as a time of reflection and repentance, I am looking for peace within to accompany my work for peace without.

Where do you find peace when things seem a bit of a mess, either in the world, or in your world? How do you try to maintain respect and uphold the dignity of others even when you would rather not?

 

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