A few years ago for Lent, I gave up getting angry. Since I was fairly devout in college, I had already done meat, television, and my favorite foods: chocolate, Coca Cola, Tostitos in my twenties. After I moved to Qatar and saw the diligence with which Muslims pray five times a day and also fast during Ramadan, I think I was slightly inspired to give up something toxic as anger while living here. Lent is the Christian equivalent of Ramadan – a time when we restrain ourselves in order to remember what it is like to sacrifice. Interestingly we interpret the symbolic detail of a fast: it is not the literal abstaining from food and drink like Muslims do but a fasting of the spirit as well.
It’s Lent again and while last year I sacrificed my time and made sure to be at services the entire month and a half before Easter, this year I felt a call to do a similar task: not return evil for so much of the negativity I feel around me. Part of this is just good practice for the baby and to combat pregnancy hormones (the hospital staff are ill advised to keep a woman sustaining another life waiting) which make every small irritation into a mountain of intolerance.
Taking a breath before spitting something back at someone is hard work. The fact that it is hard work makes me realize how much I’ve let the anger, irrtation, and short tempered nature grow unchecked for a number of years. Snapping at people in order to gain the upper hand is not what I want to do and making this my sacrifice for Lent is what I need to remind me of who I am and what I believe. I don’t believe in the supramacy of circumstances or that the end justifies the means. Because I may make more money than the custodian in our office does not mean I will treat him as though he is sub-human.
These are simple reminders that we lose in the hustle and noise of daily life. The admonition to act counter to human nature and return evil, or malintentions with good, is something I am cultivating this season as we wait for Easter, the ultimate symbol of goodness. Let’s hope I’m equal to the task.
Tonight at the hospital in the face of a thirty minute delay at the end of a ten hour work day, I did better than I would have otherwise, but still short with the staff. A lot of deep breathing kept me from saying what I really wanted to. That and a handy magazine kept my mouth shut. (Though I got a little revenge by posting a Facebook status). Here’s to four more weeks and being a better person at the end of them.