Why Lent? Embodying Longing

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday – the first day of Lent.  When I started writing this entry, I was sitting next to a station at the campus union where ashes are being offered for everyone who so desires.

I talked about this last year, but as I grow older I realize more and more that I need embodied symbols to help me connect with God in my life.  I’m a “gut” person. I learn best when through an experience.

A few months back, a spiritual director was running a session and said something that I’ve been reflecting on for six months now and am learning how true it really is:

We act on what we believe,

We believe only what is real to us,

What is real to us becomes real through an experience.

-Beth Booram

Case in point: I have told students hundreds of times that God loves them. But it only becomes real when I can point to time when they have experienced unconditional love and pointed it to God’s love that it seems to get through.

Don’t get me wrong – I love good head knowledge and heart knowledge. Before I started my grad program, I would feast on learning in general. The internet gives instant information in whatever I want, whenever I want. It’s a gluttony of information.

(Now, most of my free time comes in trying to figure out a problem set of the probability of some disastrous event.)

But if you think of it, from a spiritual knowledge perspective, the average 25 year old who has grown up in the church and listened to a 30 minute sermon in church every Sunday listens to 25 hours of preaching a year, times 25 years of life…that is 625 hours of teaching. Yikes.

And then we think about music and matters of the heart – I would argue my students listen to more music than they do sermons, and musical worship is the heart language of the young generation. And while I do believe this is essential for our life with God, singing to the glowing screen or pipe organ does only develop us in so many ways.

If you grew up in a church that didn’t include the spiritual disciplines that embodied sacraments, you likely didn’t get a lot of “gut” learning.  And “gut” learning most often happens through experience.  Fasting and abstaining from things – not getting what I want when I want it, and not repressing the need but pressing into why the need exists – is a deeply reflective experiential discipline that can help us understand our ache for a broken world to be put back together again.

An example: I’m single and celibate in ministry – so on one level, I do know what it’s like to abstain from things.  Sometimes it has been by choice, and others it has been by circumstance.  But as I’ve pressed into understanding this, my state of singleness and my varying capacity with which I am content in this state is something that I’ve learned has truly helped me understand people better.  One of the ways I realize is easiest to connect with folks is when our deepest longings are unmet, and we question whether or not God is really good.

So, I’m abstaining from Facebook completely for Lent. (If you are reading this on Facebook, it is because it syndicates automatically with my blog.) I’m abstaining from being nosy, looking at what my friends are up to, and channeling it into reflection and prayer for this season. I don’t want my life to be a series of status updates.

I’m also abstaining from online chatting by stripping my gmail to simple HTML formatting that will not allow for me to be online.

And that whole Google buzz bit? Shut it off as soon as it came on the screen.

And here is the one I’m kind of afraid of: I’m abstaining from meat during lent.  I’ve been reading up a little bit on this – Food Rules, by Michael Pollan, and realize that I’d like to reshape the way I eat over the next year.  I’m abstaining from meat for the time being.  I’ll enjoy the typical fish on Fridays (thank God for my Wisconsin heritage!) and when I’m in someone’s home I won’t impose my discipline on my host and graciously accept what is placed before me.  I’ll also enjoy my feast day on Sunday (or sometimes moved to Monday).  I’m trying to treat meat as a treat (pun intended), not as a staple, in order to be in solidarity with those around the world who don’t have the choice to eat meat regularly.

I’m hoping that Lent places a deeper understanding of my longing for what is right in the world.  It’s something that I believe, in the end, will help me rejoice with all around the world who say, “He is risen!” on Easter Sunday.

3 Responses to “Why Lent? Embodying Longing”

  1. 1 Robert February 18, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    I found a really good Korean vegetarian place on the Northwest side, maybe if I make it back we can hit it. Especially with fish on Fridays I think you’ll find it won’t be as hard as you think. Just make sure to watch the protein if you are working out at all.

    • 2 Beth Booram February 18, 2010 at 6:42 pm


      You have a growing wisdom about you, Andy. Thank you for sharing this with me via Brandt. Your post reminds me that I miss being part of a liturgical church that supplies more “prompts” to embodied longings. I appreciate your actions to stream line life and need to consider how I participate in Lent this season without the support of a community. Thanks for the nudge and glad that the framing statements have given you food for thought.

      warmly, Beth

  1. 1 Vomiting & Facebook: Purging from Social Networking « Less is More Trackback on April 4, 2010 at 11:43 pm

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February 2010

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