Journeying in Lenten season

Paul Haokip *

"Even now," declares the Lord, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your heart and not your garments" (Joel 2:12-13a). Instead of merely associating Lenten season with fasts, abstinence, penance and sacrifices, I would like to see it as a time of preparation for Spring (new life).

The golden acts like prayer, fasting and alms giving should be decorated with intention and direction towards uplifting one's life and others' life. The Spring season and Easter are inseperably connected and one encriches the other.

The innate desire to sustain life is strong in both. The prepared liturgical calandar for the beginning and end of Lenten season itself is a cyle of celebrating life. It is life oreinted and life sustatining.

It is life giving and there is the inherent desire to continue and celebrate life. The Ash Wednesday celebration revolves around life – its beginning, frailty, swift flow and end.

Lenten sesaon can be quite-moments for Self-Assessment of life. It is the key first step in navigating your present life style. Self-assessment leads to better knowledge and understanding of self. This essential unadulterated self-knowledge is a factor that leads one to be happy on the current job. It will enhance your ability to articulate your values, interests, abilities and personal preferences. Your responses will be to use and evaluate the pros and cons of your life as a Christian celebrating Lenten time.

A little boy went into a drug store, reached for a soda carton and pulled it over to the telephone. He climbed onto the carton so that he could reach the buttons on the phone and proceeded to punch in the phone number. The store-owner observed and listened to the conversation.

Boy: 'Lady, can you give me the job of cutting your lawn?
Woman: (at the other end of the phone line): 'I already have someone to cut my lawn.'

Boy: 'Lady, I will cut your lawn for half the price of the person who cuts your lawn now.'
Woman: I'm very satisfied with the person who is presently cutting my lawn.

Boy: (with more perseverance): 'Lady, I'll even sweep your sidewalk, so on Sunday you will have the prettiest lawn in all of Palm Beach, Florida.'
Woman: No, thank you.

With a smile on his face, the little boy replaced the receiver. The store-owner, who was listening to all this, walked over to the boy.
Store Owner: 'Son… I like your attitude; I like that positive spirit and would like to offer you a job.'

Boy: 'No thanks.'
Store Owner: But you were really pleading for one.

Boy: No Sir, I was just checking my performance at the Job I already have. I am the one who is working for that lady I was talking to!'

In the above incident of the little boy, he is aware of his work and his worth. This feeling gives him life and energy. Definitely he is going to increase the "can-do" areas and steadily eliminated "can't-do" lists.

If you seriously want to grow in life you need some self-evaluation from time to time. Completing a self-assessment each week or month or year helps you chart your progress so as to stay on your desired trajectory of life. You should strive to be as objective as possible and rate yourself based on facts and tangible results, not based on mere intentions.

By setting monthly or annual goals and evaluating your own performance against them, you'll be able to see whether or not you're on track to achieve your overall Christian aspirations. More importantly, if you're not on track, you'll be able to see why your pace has been slow or gone haywire.

The hidden energy in the trunks of the trees (vegetation) gives rise to visible forms of leaves, newness, tenderness, life itself. This same invitation is extended to us – to give newness and life (not new crooked theories and multiplication of dirty polity). Pity is the person, who overtly and ritually celebrates Lenten season without any newness for good in life. Waste of time and self bluffing.

The fact is that you can bluff others but you can't really bluff yourself. Either you grow into new life at Easter call/Spring season or you get dried up and rotten within. Forty days is a symbolic figure for preparation and reparation. Days could be minimized or maximised according to the response of each one.

Isaiah 58:6-7 reads, "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to lose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?"

Set free yourself first; feed your hungry soul first so that you can be of immense help to others. Individualize or personalize your Christian practices and make it personally effective. Do not merely depend on your priests, nuns, catechists, pastors, evangelists, catechism, but be independently inquisitive and a seeker of truth. If you heavily depend on them, you will fail if they don't give you the up-to-date and in-depth knowledge and experience.

It is more fruitful to have personal & intentional step-by-step process of self evaluation than a third party forcing you for immediate change. Growth is part of life and life is a mystery to each one. No particular modus operandi works for all. Each has varied speed for life and improvement.

Take this Lenten season as a "Personal journey towards yourself" and see what you have achieved and what need to be done to live an authentic Christian life. Even as you walk and journey through the Lenten season, allow yourself to be inspired by the Spring season of newness (that is coming soon) to help you reflect the deeper aspects of life – personality, orientation, values, marriage, allegiance, commitment and sustenance.

If you permit yourself to be taught by nature, you are on the right track to learn the finest truths of life and profundity of human existence. Nature nurtures us, gives us freshness in due season in spite of human's cruelty. Nature is always life-oriented and life-sustaining.

Take this Lenten season as important journey to visit your inner depth and jump forth as Spring season with newness of life. This personal exercise can be carried out daily, weekly, monthly or yearly. More often the better. The sooner the better.

In spite of your best intentions, everything in life does not work out. The ups and downs of life are reality to be embraced happily. If you get a straight line – you are declared dead. Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it (Charles R. Swindoll). See and evaluate how you react to a time of year like Lenten season.

* Paul Haokip wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on February 18, 2018.

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