It’s Lent. And whether you are religiously inclined or not, it’s always a good thing to do a little emotional and mental spring cleaning this time of year. Weak-willed and perpetually distracted, I always need some help along the way. This Lent, I thought I’d return to a book my dear friend Sarah gave me years ago, Listening to Your Life: Daily Meditations with Frederick Buechner.
If you don’t know much about Frederick Buechner, suffice it to say Maya Angelou, Annie Dillard, Anne Lamott, and The New York Times are big fans. He’s written more than 30 books, is an ordained Presbyterian minister, and inspires people to see grace in their daily lives. He can also be very funny.
So, I thought I’d share with you his thoughts on Lent, taken from his Feb. 26 entry in Listening to Your Life. It got me thinking (again). Hope it does the same for you.
In many cultures there is an ancient custom of giving a tenth of each year’s income to some holy use. For Christians, to observe the forty days of Lent is to do the same thing with roughly a tenth of each year’s days. After being baptized by John in the river Jordan, Jesus went off alone in the wilderness where he spent forty days asking himself the question what it meant to be Jesus. During Lent, Christians are supposed to ask one way or another what it means to be themselves.
If you have to bet everything you have on whether there is a God or whether there isn’t, which side would get your money and why?
When you look at your face in the mirror, what do you see in it that you most like and what do you see in it that you most deplore?
If you had only one last message to leave to the handful of people who are most important to you, what would it be in twenty-five words or less?
Of all the things you have done in your life, which is the one you would most like to undo? Which is the one that makes you the happiest to remember?
Is there any person in the world, or any cause, that, if circumstances called for it, you would be willing to die for?
If this were the last day of your life, what would you do with it?
To hear yourself try to answer questions like these is to begin to hear something not only of who you are but of what you are becoming and what you are failing to become. It can be a pretty depressing business all in all, but if sack-cloth and ashes are at the start of it, something like Easter may be at the end.
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