Shrove Tuesday - Giving it Up
Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras. All names for this day, the day before Ash Wednesday, the day before Lent begins.
A day to eat all the eggs and butter and oil in the pantry (pancakes! king cake!), to make one's confession (shriving!), to party big before the season of penitence and fasting begins. And a day to burn last year's palms from Palm Sunday, to make the ashes for tomorrow.
I've eaten some delicious king cake today and looking forward to pancakes for supper tonight. In the past, I've participated in a couple of palm burning/ash producing events. They are often more about the symbolism than about producing ashes. After all, one can procure ashes from a number of church suppliers without having to do all that pounding and straining any more. But I like symbolic acts, don't you?
And so as I consider Lent this year, I have decided to do something I've never really done before during Lent, and that is to give something up. Normally, I take something on, often devotional reading, perhaps meditation, or some other addition to my life. Truth be told, I've always been a little weird about the giving up thing. After all, the focus can so easily become about the thing given up and perhaps the physical health benefits that might accrue. And so I've focused more on the building up of spiritual health stuff.
But this year, I realize that I really can't take on something new. I am trying to pare down, to simplify. It is sad but true that I've really struggled the last two or three years with keeping up with a discipline of adding on, with the unhappy result that my Lenten disciplines have fizzled out. So my hope is that I will be able to sustain a discipline of giving something up all the way through Lent.
This, too, is a symbolic act. I am joining with those all over the world who are fasting during Lent. It doesn't matter what we are giving up. The point is to keep the discipline, to be mindful of how I am living, day to day, to practice the age old discipline of fasting while asking the question, how might I make room for God to change me this year?
Fasting alone isn't enough - there must be reflection, too, about how I might turn more toward God and God's abundance as what I truly rely on, as we move together as a church to the cross. And so, tomorrow, we begin.