Posts Tagged With: guilt

Lent: The Halfway Point

I’ll admit it–this year has not been my best Lent.

Sure, I’m pregnant, and hitting the very pregnant stage, and we’ve had two snowstorms trapping us in the house, so we’ve missed Stations twice and haven’t made it to Adoration at all. But for Lent I said I would make a point of spending half an hour in prayer every day, and last week I think the longest I made it was ten minutes.

See, we’re doing this study called Oremus in the CWOC group that I joined, which is all about deepening and enriching your prayer life, right? I came in on week three, so I had to do a bit of catch-up with the exercises, but the general idea is that every week has a set of readings and every day you do the lectio divina, and then once a week you gather with your group to watch a DVD talking about the next week’s focus and then discuss how the previous week has gone. It’s a pretty darn good study, and to me the most valuable aspect is that it a) sets forth a reading plan and b) provides accountability in the form of my fellow ladies. (More on that latter point in another post.)

And then we hit the most recent week, where Day 2 invites you to get up at sunrise and contemplating Genesis 1–not in a lectio divina sense, just in a communining with God in the beauty of his creation sense. Which would be great if a) I could motivate myself to get up at/before sunrise (hahahahahahahaha) (ah ha) (ha) (ha) or b) there had been a morning in the past week that wasn’t so cloudy as to obscure said sunrise. One day I tried to say screw it and just meditate on Genesis 1, but I was so tired I almost fell asleep as soon as I finished reading it, and anyway I feel guilty for not following ALL THE INSTRUCTIONS lest I somehow fail to get out of the program what I’m supposed to be getting out of it. And then our meeting for last week was canceled due to snow, and this week’s meeting was canceled due to Spring Break. So the two things that have been motivating me–the reading plan and the accountability–both fell apart.

And I let them.
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I was thinking…about today’s readings

in which I abuse bullet points beyond redemption.

  • This time last year might not’ve been the first time I recognized it, but it’s the first time it’s made enough of an impression that I remember it all the way to this time this year. “It” being the pattern of Gospels during Ordinary Time. I’ll have to wait till next year to know if it’s the same every cycle, but I’m guessing it is. That would be a very Church thing to do.
  • Anyway, after Easter, the Gospels are grouchy, one might say–heavily focused on the nature of sin, and what constitutes sin, and wailing and gnashing of teeth. We’ve been revitalized by Easter and confirmed by Pentecost and now we’re back to the grind of daily life, nothing special, and in the U.S. it’s the hot days of summer, which are at once busy and dangerously lazy. So, a good time to remember sin, but also a bit of a downer after that fifty-day party we’ve been having. On the other hand, a sobering reminder of the struggles that we face on the way to that Easter joy.
  • Those weeks are a downer. They’re hard, and they don’t let up. Jesus is constantly hitting us with the requirements: love God, love neighbor, no really, every neighbor, no, even if you’re just thinking you’re still guilty, you gotta love, you gotta follow the commandments, no, really, you gotta give everything and then some, no, give everything, I am going to die on a cross for you okay kids look there’s gonna be wheat and there’s gonna be chaff so listen up because nobody wants to be chaff.
  • I don’t like those weeks. They make me anxious about my every action.
  • But I like these weeks that come next! Last week’s first reading was one of my absolute favorites, and this week’s–well, read them.
  • And then after these next few weeks we’ll start heading into the eschatological readings that lead into Christ the King–you know, the end-of-the-world, final-judgment, remember-what-I-said-about-the-wheat-and-the-chaff, I-was-serious readings. Also not much fun.
  • But sandwiched between the sin and the end we are given the beautiful respite of God’s love and God’s support and God’s goodness, how God nourishes and feeds us, how God will call us to him and catch us when we stumble along the way. It’s the model of the love that Jesus was telling us we had to live, the love that we must be if we are to be wheat; it’s not only the model, it’s the reality of what is already ours. It’s the outline for how to hear God, how to know when he is calling, how to listen to his voice. It’s a picture of what is to come, a reminder that no matter how scary and uncertain life or the devil or the end times might be, God is constant, and constantly for us (and so, we smile, who can be against us?).
  • Come to the water, and when (because it’s always when, not if) the river turns into a tempestuous ocean, do not be afraid.
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Potato Skins

I’m in the middle of a spell of being painfully aware of the whole my-actions-affect-everyone-else (in a macro sense; on a daily level I’m probably as thoughtless as ever), and so my husband has been patiently participating in mostly-one-sided discussions on the subject, such as the one we had Saturday night about potato skins.

It was late and we were on the road and hungry, so we stopped at a Wendy’s; since we’re in the middle of moving, we’ve been eating a fair amount of fast food lately, and one of the things I like about Wendy’s is you can get a baked potato (and you used to be able to get broccoli on it to, but they seem to have taken that off the menu) instead of fries.  So I ordered one and some chicken nuggets, which I used to top the potato along with some honey mustard, and then I mixed it all together and it was mostly satisfying.  (One day I will give a class on creative uses of same-old same-old prepackaged food?)

Anyway, I had finished the filling, but there was still plenty of potato left on the skin–the kind that’s hard to scrape off when you’re sitting still, let alone when you’re trying to balance in a car on the interstate–and after a brief war of what-about-germs versus piping-hot-temperature-of-baked-potato, hunger won out and I carried on.

“Does it weird you out, that I eat potato skins?” I asked my husband.

“Not anymore,” he said, fairly promptly, “although I’m not so sure about what you’re doing now…”

I asked because one of the first times I ate with his family, they made steak and baked potatoes, which I hear is a fairly typical American meal but not one I ever really ate growing up.  I did eat a lot of ten-minutes-in-the-microwave potatoes though, and so I proceeded to eat them as I normally did, skin and all.  (Especially if they’ve been salted and baked properly, so they’re nice and crispy?  DELICIOUS.)  It was only after I was about halfway through that I realized that everyone else…was leaving their skins on their plates.  Being the new girlfriend, I panicked a little internally, but it was too late and they were delicious and I couldn’t eat any more steak, so I finished them off.  I had a similar encounter the first time they served me cucumber salad on a lettuce leaf; turns out the leaf is decoration and not part of the salad.

Now, my husband and I both grew up in middle-class suburbia in the nineties, but I was taught that potato skins were something you eat, and he wasn’t.  This got me thinking about all the other foods we reject that are eaten elsewhere, or were eaten by our relatives only a few generations ago, and how sometimes we even view those foods as “poor people’s” (I think it partly has to do with European sensibilities, but this post is getting long already so–for another time!).  Like pig ears–they sell them at Kroger, but I would never in a million years buy one because ew, ears (or worse, cow tongue, which I read about in the Ramona books and was so grossed-out-by that I believed obviously it was a fancy name for something because they couldn’t really be eating tongue, could they?).  And yet go back a hundred, a hundred and fifty years ago, and if you did something like slaughter a pig and then not use part of it, you were being practically criminal in your wastefulness.

(This also ties into the whole detachment-from-our-food sources thing.  Post for another time, probably by someone who is better informed than I.)

And then there’s the huge problem that the simultaneous treatment of something as trash (i.e. not useful/edible) but also as for poor people implies that they deserve and are worth no more than garbage.  How often are food pantry donations made simply from the leftovers or off-brands or things-I-wouldn’t-eats?  It’s like condemning a school or school system for being bad and then ignoring the fact that children are still attending that school.  They know you think the education they’re getting is worthless; they make the connection that they, too, are worthless.  When we look at the pollution in China and say “I’d never live there” but keep taking advantage of the cheap prices associated with that Made in China sticker, we have to be aware that we are contributing to a toxic level of pollution affecting the lives of 1/7th of the world’s population, that we’ve contributed to the genocide of their daughters.

But then you get tangled up trying to figure out how not to buy Made in China–in staring at the vast array of meat in the grocery store and contemplating how many animals were slaughtered but are never going to be eaten–in looking at all the resources we’ve wasted making junk, or even merely too much of one thing, because supply and demand are so separate from one another and the relentless machinery of capitalism keeps trying to create need out of want and want out of who even cares? (and is broken if not failed completely, gears crunching against each other while that horrible screeching you hear is the souls caught up in it like an Irish girl’s hair in a textile mill).

My dad starts his Sunday School curriculum on social justice with the story of the village by a river that one day discovered babies floating downstream in the river and organized an effort to get them out of the water before they drowned.  Their efforts were valiant and they saved many lives, but the babies kept coming, and so one day two workers quit what they were doing and started heading upstream.  “Where are you going?” the other villagers asked, scandalized that they would abandon their posts.  “To stop whoever’s throwing babies in the water!” they replied, and off they went.

That’s where the story ends, but of course the people who try to stop the babythrowers have different methods they can try–they can directly approach the people throwing babies into the water, or they can go after whatever political body is dictating that babies ought to be tossed in.  It seems to me nowadays that most people who try the second route often end up sucked into the very system they’re trying to reform–at least, that’s how Washington feels to me–but I firmly believe that the individual grassroots approach works–that it’s the best way of working, because politicians come and go but individual impacts can be passed to the next generation.

And as I told a group of freshmen, on that first day of Social Justice, whenever you get overwhelmed about all the broken and corrupt systems in the world–or at the very least, when the complexities of the quinoa craze leave you wondering just what you should do–there is always, always something you can do at the local, individual level.  Soup kitchens.  Food banks.  Libraries.  Prisons.  Women’s health clinics, in all their myriad forms.  4H.  Boys and Girls Club.  Legal Aid.  Trail or highway cleanup.  Prayer!  And once you’ve hit upon something you think you should do, do it.  Part of what I’m most looking forward to about being done moving is the chance to ease the crisis of conscience through finding whatever way I’m meant to help in our new community.  For now, I’m stuck with problems for which I see no answers, and paralysis in the face of injustice is exactly what keeps the injustice going.

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