Failing Lent

I know there are some great bloggers here at Patheos writing about various Lenten themes and questions.  I just can’t muster up the interest and energy for this season like I can for Advent.  It’s not because I only want religion and theology to be happy, it’s specifically because mandated self-denial and the bloody cross bother me.  In this post, I’ll take up the first issue, failing Lent.

Erin over at Irreverin, writes about needing carbs and coffee for Lent, capturing so much:

Maybe I lack the discipline to give things up. I’ve never even attempted giving up chocolate or alcohol. I believe in moderation, but dang…a girl’s got to live. I’m sure sacrificing carbs or sugar or caffeine would purify my body in some powerful way, while also providing soul benefits, but I’m only a person. I run a church, I have two small children, I write, I walk the dog, I’ve got laundry to do. What I’m saying is, I need sustenance. More power to y’all who’ve been gifted with a sacrificial spirit, but some of us are just trying to get by.

… Here’s the thing…for those of us who lead a church (whether paid staff or volunteer) the elements of ‘preparation’ in liturgical seasons are as practical as they are spiritual. As we seek to lead our congregations through the soul-searching wilderness of Advent or Lent, our own lives (and desks) are crowded with the details of the upcoming red-letter day.

For me, it’s not running a church, it’s the rush of another spring semester.  Grading exams and papers, running meetings, coordinating faculty elections, meeting with students, travelling to conferences, and a thousand other things.  I did just return from a few days stolen away with my husband in Missouri wine country during spring break, wherein I tried to give up some of the stress and anxiety inevitable as midterm season hurtles toward the end of another academic year.

But, it was waiting for me when I got home.

I did try, in my post at the start of this dark Lenten season, to tweak the idea of giving things up and suggest:

What if we gave up violence against women for Lent?  Or, gave it up forever?

Gave up tolerating it, looking the other way, shaking our heads, and gave up swallowing our rage?

That’s the best I could do.

And frankly, I think that such a thing would be eminently more meaningful than whether or not I have a glass of wine on a Wednesday afternoon.


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About Caryn Riswold

Caryn D. Riswold is a feminist theologian in the Lutheran tradition. She is Professor of Religion and also teaches Gender and Women’s Studies at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, where she has worked for over a decade teaching undergraduates to think critically and creatively about religion. She earned her Ph.D. and Th.M. from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, holds a master’s degree from the Claremont School of Theology, and received her B.A. from Augustana College in her childhood hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.