An Ash Wednesday “Disaster” and the Meaning of Lent

I have to confess that my Lenten season began with a quick failure. I have been so busy recently, Ash Wednesday just sort of snuck up on me. As someone who often writes about spirituality, it made me feel like a loser that I hadn’t spent any time contemplating what to give up for the forty daysprior to Easter. I checked the blogs of several of my friends Tuesday nightand quickly decided on the necessity of giving up Starbucks for Lent.

I love Starbucks. There is one right down the street from where I work and I am an everyday customer…the staff knows me by name. From a family budget standpoint, giving upcoffee for Lentis a no-brainer — a win-win. I could offer something to the conversation about Lent with my like-minded friends and savemoney at the same time.I thought I would go ahead and give it a try on Wednesday…

A great idea until my lunch break rolled around.

You see, I rediscovered the Starbucks gift card I received from my in-laws for Christmas. Itwas still in my wallet. In the time it might take me to spell the word “discipline”, I was parking the car back at work with a piping hot grande nonfat caramel macchiato in my hand.

This is the time on the liturgical calendar when we remember Jesus’ forty days of fasting. It is a time of sacrifice, prayer, reflection, with the ultimate purpose of preparing to remember the Resurrection. As I sat down and finally had a quiet moment to remember my near heretical capitulation at Planet Starbucks earlier, I realized something that should seem obvious for someone too busy to contemplate Ash Wednesday until… well… Ash Wednesday.

This season truly requires surrendering space in our lives. Ironic, that it wasWednesday eveningwith a cup of home-brewed Starbucks coffee in hand, that I looked overour backyardand realized it was also time of year to think about cleaning out the garden. It won’t be long beforeit iswarm enoughto beginplanting new seeds in the weeks following Easter.Looking over that plot of space that will bloom in the summer months reminded me of what we do (in our own lives) during Lent.Of course, it is a little deeper than giving up Starbucks coffee, Guinness, television or junk food for four weeks.We are clearing roomin anticipation of the Resurrection in our own lives. This evening, as I observed my garden area cluttered withbrown leaves and brittle remains of last year’s tomato plants, I remembered what should have beenobvious to me. I need to commit my a portion of my time to silence and reflection for these forty days. I need to clear an open area in the clutter and busyness of my life.

Celebrating Lent means I need to step away from the race for the next goal, the next religious event, leave the next project unfinished, forget about the next promotion, walk away from next great purchase, maybe even skip the next Facebook post. Itrequires metoturn down the volume and slow the pace of my life, to prepare space in my soul for the rebirth that is on the way. I might even do that with a nice cup of coffee in my hand.

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