I have been thinking a lot about Lent lately - I have had church on the brain. I struggled with deciding what to give up or what kind of a commitment to make for the season of Lent, a season which for me often only amplifies the less pleasant aspects of the religion. Faithful readers will recall that familiar question, 'What do I have to feel guilty about?,' and the Lenten journey for me often seems to add more and more layers of guilt. Along with regular bad feelings for not going to church, or not praying enough, or praying insufficiently, or whatever, I can now add guilty feelings for the Lenten promises I have abandoned and the vows I have swept aside.
But this is the wrong way to look at things, I realized with some help. If I am focusing too much on the self-flagellation aspect of the whole thing, I am missing the point and instead fixating on this idea of pain and self-denial for its own sake. This year I am trying to take a more sane route: going to church every sunday at 9 am. This is much more palatable when I have some good brunch plans to follow the mass, as I have had for the last two weeks. And it's been really nice so far, so I think I am making some progress.
Last night I had a dream, though, about Lent. I was going through some kind of crucible - it was like a test or an obstacle course or a walk through fire, to cleanse myself and get right. It was amazing, because I found that when I concentrated hard enough on purifying myself, streams of water would run from my fingers and all of the sin and guilt and darkness washed right out of me. It was the kind of tangible symbol I long for, yet know I will never receive. Ascension was the theme of this dream: as I kept moving forward, the water kept flowing from my hands, and I just rose higher and higher into something good.
It was a really wonderful dream. I am happy how this Lent is going. It's not about giving up soda or dessert, but it is about something. Oh, gratitude! Redemption! How sweet you are. Every day is another chance.