Being raised Baptist, I knew very little about Ash Wednesday or Lent. I knew that my Catholic friend Judy didn’t eat meat on Fridays but that was the extent of my knowledge. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I knew about the imposition of ashes. I was so embarrassed when I pointed out to a patron of the library I worked at that she had something on her forehead. She could have been a little nicer with her explanation but it prompted me to do more research on the subject.
This will be my second Ash Wednesday to attend a service where the palms from Palm Sunday have been burned in the church courtyard. This year I’ll know better what to expect and hopefully I’ll be more able to concentrate on the words and responses than worrying about whether I’m doing it right.
As far as giving something up for Lent, I’m going to give up a behavior instead of something tangible like chocolate. I talk to myself. A lot. I’m never lonely because the sound of my own voice keeps me company. Talking to myself is how I work through things, how I rehearse difficult conversations, and unfortunately how I vent. I’ve noticed lately that I can get myself worked up about a situation just by thinking about it and verbalizing how I’m feeling. The other morning, I got myself so agitated by my train of thought that I could feel my back tightening from the anxiety.
So this year for Lent, instead of talking to myself, I’m going to talk to God. When I’m tempted to complain about a co-worker, I’m going to pray for her. When I rehearse things in my head, I’m going to turn those challenges over to God instead of imagining conversations that I probably will never have.
Spending these 40 days looking at why I deal with stress and anxiety the way I do is a perfect companion to my One Word: Up. My goal for that one word for 2013 was to do a better job looking up to God for guidance, love, and approval. When I try to work through things on my own, I’m not doing that. I hope that in looking inward to why I’m so critical and learning to pray for people instead of be frustrated by them will also help me in another one of my goals for 2013 – to be the wonderfully made person God created me to be.
It may be a little lonely for me at first, but I’m guessing God will be more than happy to keep me company.