I have always struggled with the practice of giving something up for Lent. Having grown up Baptist, we did not really celebrate Lent. We celebrated Holy Week and Easter.
So when I entered adulthood and began to seek ways to deepen my connection to the Sacred, my spirituality, I began to contemplate this practice. I remember the first time I decided to really practice giving something up for Lent. I went BIG! I gave up sugar, including chocolate. It was not a pleasant experience for those who lived in my household. It turns out that sugar was how I comforted myself, how I pushed down all those feelings and things I did not want to deal with. When I gave it up, I had no way to cope! My partner at the time, begged me to "take my mini-Easters on Sundays." We laughed about it over the years, but I had not prepared myself for the spiritual and emotional turmoil that happened when I stopped using my 'drug' (yes sugar is an addictive food) of choice.
But after Lent, I fell right back into it. No change. No transformation. Just a really rough 6 weeks.
As an energy and Light worker, I have learned that nature abhors a vacuum. If you take something out, you need to put something in its place. So if I am doing a healing and I remove a block, I need to put Light in its place so (1) the block does not return and (2) something else unhealthy does not take its place.
I did not do that. I did not reflect upon what I wanted as an outcome for 'giving something up.' If I had, it would have been more like my 2019 year-long experience. I decided that 2019 was the year to take back my body from Lyme disease, bring myself back to myself: lose the Lyme disease weight, stop my sugar addiction eating, exercise more, maybe lift weights. I accomplished the first three and have shifted the last one into this year 2020 -- the year to strengthen my Core, my Center.
As I did the physical work for my body, I also did the emotional and spiritual work of my soul. When I gave up sugar, I asked myself what it's benefit was for my Soul. I sat in conversation with my Soul listening and healing the wounds that sugar covered over. Each time I released a wound, a limiting belief, a block/obstruction of energy and love in my life, I replaced it with prayer, with walking in nature, with Light, with peace.
For me, the invitation of Lent is not "what are you giving up for Lent?" but also "what am I replacing that habit/thing/release with?"
What am I giving up this Lenten season? I am working at releasing my sometimes anxious presence, and falling deeper into a non-anxious presence, a witness-observer, a compassionate companion. To do this, I will dive deep into my own fears, what causes them, what my Soul needs to release them, and do that tender Soul work.
Why? I met the most beautiful being yesterday -- Goldie, whom I feel like really wants to be called Pippa. She is an amazing girl, a cross between a labrador retriever and a beagle. We fell in love. I wasn't sure at first, but as she hung out with me, she warmed up and clearly asked me to be her human. I said yes.
Then I learned that she is reactive to other dogs and sometimes humans. She needs a non-anxious compassionate presence in her life. She needs someone who can calmly give her stability and grounding. She chose me. I don't always feel those qualities in myself. She sees them. She knows they are there.
By bringing Pippa (Goldie) into my family, we will find that door in my heart, open it and heal together; replacing all that fear and anxiety with Love and Peace.
I knew Spirit would bring the right dog companion into my life. I did not realize what that meant. I look forward to being taught by Pippa how to companion her healing and growth.
What are you giving up this Lenten season?
What are you replacing that with? How are you 'filling the void' so that the unwanted behavior/habit/belief does not reclaim its spot in your life?
On Ash Wednesday, we begin the 40 day Lenten journey to Holy Week and Easter. It is a time of deep reflection and prayer, inviting us to enter deep into our hearts, into God's temple within each of us.
As your clergy person prepares the ash, she/he/they mix olive oil with ash; mixing the symbol of healing with the symbol of letting go/death.
As you approach your clergy person and they place ash on your forehead or hand, they speak to you, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
This statement is an invitation to remember that God created us from the earth, from dust. That our bodies hold all the elements of God's creation. That when we pass from this life, we return to the earth, fertilizing it for new growth, new life to come forth.
As the ash is spread across your forehead or hand, you are invited to take this spiritually into your heart.
What needs to be released, let go, die in your life for new life, new beginnings, hope to arrive on Easter?
What is holding you back, obstructing your connection with the Sacred? How can you allow that to pass from your life so you can reconnect with the One who created you?
The oil in the ash reminds you that you are on a healing journey; that as you release limiting beliefs, blocks, negative habits, whatever is holding you back, there is a healing Presence that soothes your soul, that companions you. The olive oil reminds you that that healing presence is Christ Jesus. He knows the path you are invited to walk as you let go. He knows the fears and anxieties that arise as we work to transform our lives to be more in alignment with the Sacred, with our Soul. He knows how to hold you in your grief, how to encourage you in your despair, your to embolden you in your fear. He is ever present!
This ancient beautiful ritual offers us the opportunity to join millions of others and declare that we too are on a path of healing; that we too seek to be better humans, that we too desire God's Economy to be present in our world.
Join me today. What is the Sacred inviting you to let go of this Lenten season? What is keeping you from deepening your relationship with the Holy One? What practice do would help you step more fully into the person you desire to be, the person the Sacred is calling you to be?
Pastor Jocelyn Emerson weaves together her training as a Light and Energy worker, Reiki master, spiritual director, and Pastor with her life experience as a mystic and contemplative to offer a space of trust, safety, and honesty to support you on your life's journey.