Today is the Monday before Ash Wednesday, traditionally known as Lundi Gras. We are more familiar and much more excited about Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday or the Tuesday before the beginning of Lent which is on Wednesday. We have had a Mardi Gras party almost every year since leaving New Orleans and tomorrow I am making a triple batch of Emeril's chicken and Andouille sausage gumbo, have my king cake ordered from Prantl's bakery and my red feathered mask is out and ready to go. Grant lovingly put together a Mardi Gras playlist and together with friends and loved ones we will cheers Abita bottles and second line around the dining room to the sweet notes of Rebirth Brass Band.
I am not Catholic, but have been getting to know more and more Anglican folks and thus am becoming more familiar with traditional church feast and fasting days, the sacraments and classical liturgical practices. All of these things seem to have significant impact on the observation of Lent, a 40 day period on the church calendar of which I know very little about. A quick Wikipedia search (my husband is choking on his Diet Coke right now) and I found out that "During Lent, many of the faithful commit to fasting or giving up certain types of luxuries as a form of penitence." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lent).
* here is a blog about the five most common food vices given up for Lent, which the author respectfully calls the "spring deprivation ritual".
I grew up Baptist, spent my late teens and early 20's as a non-denominational, and the last decade as a Presbyterian. In other words, my spiritual life has run the gamut in terms of discipline of practice. In no church I have ever attended have we observed Lent. So I find myself at the tricky intersection of desire to properly observe this church discipline of the Lenten season and not knowing what Lent is. And it begins on Wednesday.
This might be a theme in my life... I accepted Grant's marriage proposal before I thought about whether or not I ever wanted to get married, but trusted the fact that when he asked me, all I wanted to say was Yes. I thought about the enormity of my commitment about halfway through our honeymoon when we were fighting about something and it hit me that I couldn't drive away and call this a Mulligan. 9 years later, I thank my naïve 23 year old self that she was courageous enough to say yes.
Is this how the great and defining things in life happen? The moment when there is a commitment being presented to you, and all you really know is that you want to say yes and jump in? Maybe if we had all the information we would step back from the edge and stay safe. Kurt Vonnegut said "I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the center."
For those of you who observe Lent every year, this level of angst might seem silly. It's only 40 days after all, and there are no rules from what I can tell about what you choose to give up. It is a personal observation and spiritual discipline. But I don't do things like this half way. It took me 5 years to come to the conclusion that we should baptize our children, and the number of individuals from whom I sought advice was staggering. I just wanted to be sure because spiritual commitments like this should be taken seriously. They mean something.
So in the next 2 days I will think and pray and make a decision about Lent for me this year. Any personal experiences, wisdom and advice would be valuable if you would choose to share.