We interrupt Too Good Not to Share Tuesday for a bonus reflection on this Fat Tuesday. Today being the day before Ash Wednesday makes it a good time to spend a few minutes reflecting on how we might make this Lent a spiritually meaningful one.
As for me, I’ve fallen into two Lenten practices in the last couple of years that I do plan to continue (I will drive the speed limit [flexible by 5mph so as not to become an occasion of sin for other drivers:)] and the only drink I’ll have is water). These are regularly-occurring, small, but noticeable sacrifices that draw me, several times a day, to consider what my focus is versus what I would like it to be. Is it more important to have what I want when I want it? To beat the other drivers in the race down the road? Or would it be good for me to be more grateful for the gift of plentiful water and the ability to go where I want to whenever I want to — to be present for my own life? I find these two to be helpful practices.
I will add an additional practice this Lent, responding to the challenge of the transitional deacon at our parish during his homily last weekend. In particular, he challenged us to think of someone we need to forgive and to pray for that person every day during Lent. Now that’s a practice that could have a huge impact if we let it.
The challenge went further: don’t pray that the other person will see the error of their ways and apologize so that I can forgive them, rather pray that my heart is softened in order to forgive them. The idea being that I can only change myself, my interior dialog, my actions. Whether or not I harbor resentment or anger is not dependent on someone else’s behavior but is fully my choice.
Here I am not suggesting that we can’t be angry with someone — our feelings are our feelings — but we can decide if we’re going to hold on to that anger and let it turn into something that, after all, will only harden our own heart and will not affect the other person at all. You’ve heard the saying, I’m sure, that holding on to resentment is like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.
We know, also, that forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting. If the person we forgive still has the capacity to hurt us, it is sensible to keep a safe distance. Don’t engage — whether to express anger nor to offer yourself as a doormat, again. But this doesn’t preclude forgiveness.
This Lent I invite you to join me in accepting the deacon’s challenge. Let’s each choose a person we need to forgive, whose hold on our emotions we need to let go of, and pray for that person every day until Easter. If there’s no one you need to forgive, then pick one person with whom you have a difficult relationship — where you just never quite see eye-to-eye and you wish things were better between you.
Here’s what I’ll be praying, based in part on loving-kindness meditation. Feel free to use this formula if you’d like:
God, please fill _____ with your love. May they be peaceful and at ease. May they be happy and well. Help me to understand that _______ is your precious, wounded child, just as I am. Allow me to see them with your eyes of mercy and compassion so my heart will soften and become open to forgiveness.