Oddly, I find myself began my 2015 Lenten journey exactly as I did in 2014, waking up in hotel room on Ash Wednesday in a hotel room bed, the travel clothes for the day hanging in the closet, a boarding pass making my way to a flight home. I really have to contemplate that coincidence.
The original plan for today was to get up about 5ish, go out for a run, shower, dress, have breakfast with my manager and then head out for an all day meeting. Then after much denial, it hit me that today was Ash Wednesday, a day of meditation, fasting and abstaining from eating meat. Things were going to have to shift subtly as they always do during Lent. I think that’s the whole idea behind Lent, to invoke a shift in the way we perceive our relationship with ourselves, the world around us and with God.
I had to pass on the run as I knew this was going to be a vigorous enough day without fasting. I sat and thought a while about the day, the meaning of Lent to me and my family and possible significance of traveling on two consecutive Ash Wednesdays.
On the topic of fasting, I believe that a Lenten fast should be kept to ones self, as described in Matthew: “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden“. As such, I joke that the first rule of fast club is that one does not talk about fast club. One can blog though as long as it’s not about self-aggrandizement. I have written blog posts ever year about Lent and the meaning it has for me. Most of the time, I never publish those posts because they always feel a bit showy.
This breakfast meeting was a serving of eggs and two pieces of pineapple. Later at our lunch meeting, around the table, not wanting to draw attention to the fact that I wasn’t eating, I had a serving of vegetables and skipped the pasta, the chicken and the beautiful desserts. That was my two meals for the day.
After our meetings my colleges and I headed for the airport. We sat in the bar and they drank beer and ate chicken wings and potato wedges with bacon. I had water. Although I much prefer Guinness made in Ireland, no pint never looks quite as good as when it’s not was not on my one’s personal choice of nourishment for the day. That’ a common lesson of every Lent, for me anyway.
The flight home was a short but beautiful one. The 2014 flight home started in the predawn hours and I watched the sunrise over Northern England. This flight had the sun setting over the Pacific.
I got home after dark and the girls were at cheer practice. They would not be home for a while. I broke my fast with some cereal and a bagel. I was hungry and lonely. I wasn’t happy with the fact that I didn’t maintain the fast. I felt like one of those who couldn’t stay awake with Jesus in his final hours. Do I wish I had done better that evening? Yes. But that is also one of the lessons of Lent, that we are flesh and will return to dust. We aren’t perfect, but we should every once in a while, try to raise the bar for ourselves to better understand that we cannot fly on our own.
If you are beginning a Lenten journey today, may this season be meaningful.