So here we are dead-center in the season of Lent. Maybe it seems like I've been ignoring it but I haven't. Lent is never far from my thoughts.
I hear people say they are giving up chocolate for Lent or that they are doing without this or that because they might as well lose weight while observing the season. And I kinda think they've missed the point. Lent is not about your relationship to the scale. Lent is about bringing you closer in your relationship with God, about clearing your mind, about sorting your soul before the Holy Days.
And, yeah, I know that religion is not a popular subject these days. Snowflakes feel themselves "put upon" and "threatened" if you mention God. So, hey, Snowflakes:
God! God! God!You might be able to run away for awhile but God is there forever.
He will wait. And He is inside of you right now.
Five years ago, at the start of Lent, I wasn't taking it too seriously. I knew Lent was important but I approached it tangentially--sometimes I followed through, more often I didn't. But then I was absolutely gobsmacked by something I hadn't ever realized coming from somewhere I would not have expected. I heard something old in a completely new way, and the result is that it has changed me forever, that I am still changing, that I am still working on the Lenten commitment I made in 2012.
Well, what did I hear and where did I hear it? I was watching the first episode of new JDorama (Japanese TV drama series). Looking back on it, the opening scene really has little bearing on the rest of the show but no matter. Here's what I saw: a nun was giving a homily to a group of high school girls.
Love your neighbors as you love yourself.
It is important to be considerate of others.
But to do so, you first have to take good care of yourself.
If you can't love yourself correctly, you can't love others.
Woah. I knew the Commandments. I knew that Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love God and then to love others. And I knew that St. Paul told us that the entire Law was made up only of this point. But I never, ever imagined that loving myself was the most essential part of the plan for my relationship with God.
I have always believed that our eternal souls are our small portion of the power that is God. If I couldn't love myself.....was I rejecting God? That is supremely scary stuff because the worst thing anyone can face is separation from the Creator. That is the very definition of Hell.
I stopped the video. I watched that short scene again and again. Then I got an empty notebook, and I wrote it down. And I made a commitment.
In the days that followed I wrote in that notebook, I pasted in song lyrics and quotations, I attached a picture or two, I folded in some printed information that I wanted to keep, and, yes, Bible verses.....until I finally ran out of pages two years later. That notebook is my confessional, my catalogue of hope, my bellwether--it's never far away because I still need it. This morning it has been on my desk. There was something I needed to understand and to think about; I knew where the information could be found.
I've changed a great deal and have found a measure of peace with my place in the world. Even my handwriting has changed. But I am still me because God created me to be this person--just brighter and better. And I still have a very long way to go in learning to love myself correctly--not too much, not too little, but it a way that honors my life as a gift from God, that shows gratitude for the soul in me.
This Lent, five years on, I realized that there was a change to my Lenten commitment. It wasn't just about not hating myself anymore but it had become about treating myself with kindness and love. That's still a challenge. I'm working on it. And I guess I need to start another notebook but that will come when it is time.
Life is good.