19 February, 2015  |   8 Comments

This year, it’s 40 days of Oprahlent


Lately, I’m looking closer at religion. Ready to take control of my spirituality, not ignore it, I’m deciding for myself. My history with the stuff is complicated — whose isn’t? — and that resulted in me avoiding capital R Religion for most of my adult life.

But on the cusp of middle age, I’m ready. I look straight at Religion and decide where it squares with me. Starting with Lent.

I’m sure you know all about those studies where the act of smiling makes you happier. For me, it works. When I find myself getting in a grump, pasting the fakest smile on my face works wonders. Since I’ve had such success with the smiling method, I’m applying this logic to Lent. Much like smiling can put me in a better mood, I’m “doing” Lent, church and the whole suffering shebang to see if the spirituality will follow.

Mustard flower, yo.Yesterday I got ashes on my head and acknowledged I came from and will return to dust.

Church told me Lent is about sacrifice, reflection, forgiveness. I can get on board with all those things.

More specifically, church told me that these forty days are the time to sacrifice that which comes between God and me.

Since I’m not sure what God even is yet — much less what’s standing between us — I’m going to use the pop-culture, spiritual, self-help language I’m comfortable with instead of the religious, patriarchical language I’m not yet comfortable with.

Lent is when I sacrifice what comes between me and my best self.

Like a water stream... wait, I can't write this wayThe best self. It’s an Oprah word, but it applies here. It’s the me I was created to be. The me inside of me. The me that’s using all my gifts and talents for my specific place in the world. The best self is the me I want to be.

For Lent, I’m sacrificing three things for forty days. These things are coming between the best me and the me I am right now.

Two of the sacrifices I’m ready to share are giving up drinking alcohol and giving up Instagram.

My relationship to the both has become… just this side of problematic. It’s not a bad problem yet, it’s more like a habit that’s on the cusp of taking over.

How did I know? When asking myself what I should take a break from, both came up as the things I could never possibly give up. It made the decision easy. Since neither booze nor Instagram contributes to my best self, I’m giving them both up for forty days.

I love the notion of seasonality. I love that there are seasons for work (harvest), gratitude (November), celebration (Christmas), play (summer) and sacrifice (Lent) — not to mention atonement. So I’m trying it out. Seeing where it goes.

I’ll be checking in here periodically, with updates on both the “trying on” religion until it fits and Lenten sacrifice.

Are you giving up anything for Lent?

8 thoughts on “This year, it’s 40 days of Oprahlent

  1. 1
    Erica says:

    You said, “I’m going to use the pop-culture, spiritual, self-help language I’m comfortable with instead of the religious, patriarchal language I’m not yet comfortable with.”

    This totally strikes a chord with me. I hate, hate, hate that religion has a totally different language. I grew up religious and never knew that I spoke like a crazy person until I stopped being religious. The last couple times I’ve gone to church I just can’t get comfortable because the way they talk.

    For me it’s not just the patriarchal language but words like grace, saved, testimony, blessing, worship, praise, ministry, and repentance to name a few. No one uses those words in real life!

    Ok, that was more of a rant than I meant it to be. I’ve got some religious baggage.

    I think its awesome that you’re opening yourself to religion. I hope you find what you want through this. I think that giving something up is really wonderful too. I’m looking forward to your updates.

    • 1.1
      Helen Jane says:

      I agree with you, 100% — the words that have such hollow meaning aren’t for me. What do you MEAN “blessing?” What do you MEAN “ministry?” Such a great point!

  2. 2
    nancy vanlanen says:

    Ok so Helenjane you have struck a chord with me. To me Religion is going to church, listening to what someone else has to say. I go to church to be closer to my God, for the fellowship of common people that believe in something. My faith is what drives me, faith that someone bigger than I am has control over my life so to say. I can turn to God and thank Him for so much, my good health, my job, the beautiful sunsets and sunrises, so much it goes on and on. I am thankful to be able to have joy in my heart to share with everyone I meet. I can turn to God and ask for much also. If you listen carefully you will see everyday something that He has given you. I am happy to hear you are looking for something. It looks like you are on the right track, this is just something close to my heart and I care about someone I get on my bandwagon!! Keep going to church, listen and take what is important to you!! love you nancy

  3. 3

    […] “Trying on” Lent. Are you giving up anything for Lent this […]

  4. 4
    swampcicada says:

    I’m giving up Facebook. Not necessarily for Lent, but because it is coming between me and my best self. Religion is something that I believe is tailor made. What helps you may not help me. I know there are arguments for a common religion and the strength that breeds into society… that individualism is leaving a door open to mayhem… but if you believe, like the Dalai Lama and other Buddhists, that at the core, humans are kind, gentle soles who simply need to look inward to strengthen that part of their character, then I think society can handle individualistic, tailored religion.

    My mother dragged me to church as a child. It never resonated with me. As an adult I recognize the value of religion, the Bible, and a belief in God. However I haven’t taken the step to attend church and follow rituals. Partially because I have my own. Is that blasphemous?

  5. 5
    carole says:

    First, let me say I totally get the religious jargon thing. I can relate. But I would also say, don’t let the words get in way of the message. Every specialty has its own words, to convey specific meanings about specific things. In cooking, words like bake and fry accomplish the same thing (cook food) but result in very different outcomes. The computer industry is full of words that were once foreign sounding, but now that more tech has been assimilated into everyday life, those words are not so foreign sounding. The journey you are one is ultimately a good one. Hang on. The words you don’t have familiarity now with will come. They are just the entry into a greater understanding.

  6. 6
    kathy says:

    I am happy that lent comes, it helps me to focus on a specific roadblock to myself. That is kinda like you said about finding your better self. I am trying to focus on not wasting time. I am a procrastinator and that is what is standing between me and my better self.

  7. 7
    T-Lynn says:

    Hi HJ,
    Well, having had more religious years than not in my lifetime. I have to say that sacrifice is not the crux of religion. Finding unconditional love and genuine acceptance through your relationship with God is spirituality. This is the whole, difficult, spicy enchilada.

    Religion is an organized group of people who have like beliefs, doctrines, and traditions to an extent. Sacrifice is a tradition. No judgement on whether it’s necessary. I think I just believe differently.

    I am compelled, my dear friend, to tell you that perhaps you already know the higher power and God’s love without trying it on. Finding a way, in which you are able, despite the desire to flail against it, to treat yourself and others like Jesus would have when he was here on the Earth; that’s religion!

    Our lives get in the way of spirituality. The choices we make everyday get in the way of finding true acceptance. Personally, sacrifice is symbolic and traditional. My view is very different quite possibly. Bring on the feedback all!!

    I believe in a kinder God, who wants to guide me and help me be my best me and let his love shine through me. It’s not supposed to be easy, so that is the sacrificial part for me. Good luck! Love the foxy, sassy, original you that you are cuz God does!

    🙂 T-lynn

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