The season of Lent is meant to be a time of introspection and examination. It's meant to be a time to weigh our motives and the purpose of our existence here on this planet.
Starting with Ash Wednesday, where we are reminded of the transient nature of this life, and culminating with Easter where the faithful believe "on the Third day He (Jesus) rose again from the dead and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty" we are challenged to think beyond our provincial rationalizations.
As a young man growing up in eastern Montana I found myself constantly challenged by my mom about the validity of my assumptions. My mom was Japanese. Born and raised in an opulent, loving and educated family my mother brought an Eastern perspective into my life unfamiliar to my friends.
So while I was learning about Pearl Harbor and the Baatan death march in school, my mother was telling me about American (and European) colonialism in Asia. Her quote to me as a grade school student "the victors, not the vanquished write the history books" sticks in my mind. Politically, my mom was and remains a committed liberal whose opinion is right there on the surface.
My father, on the other hand, was never able to go to school past the eighth grade. He, like so many young men of his generation, was hired out to other ranchers to supplement the income of his family. In contrast to my mother, his family background was brutal. The three A's of alcohol, abuse and adultery were prevalent. Much to my father's credit and my eternal gratefulness, he chose to not put his wife and three sons through that kind of a life. He encouraged and lived out a life of respect, loyalty and love. My dad, in contrast to my mom, was and remains a conservative.
I remember in the late '60s hearing my mom and dad debate the merits of Bobby Kennedy as opposed to George Wallace for president. Spirited dialogue was the norm around our supper table. Fact is when I first brought my fiancee home to meet my family, she thought we were all on the verge of a fight because the debate would get so vigorous but we were all family. In the end we were and will remain family.
What does this all have to do with Lent? As I wrote earlier, Lent is a time for us to challenge our provincial rationalizations. Lent is a time to allow something bigger and greater than ourselves to invade our existence. Conservative or liberal, Democratic, Republican, independent or indifferent, regardless of ethnicity or gender, Lent is a time to allow the possibility of something greater, grander, and larger than what we assume is possible.
Both for those who come from the secular perspective and those who are people of faith is it not possible that we can learn from or at least listen to one another?
I just read a letter in this paper from someone who believes faith to be the scourge of society or at best an anti-intellectual exercise in futility. I have read articles in journals that tout unbelievers as nothing short of cord-wood for hell. These are all opinions of course, but the thing so troubling to me is the vitriol and disrespect the hubristic assumption that we really do know it all.
Now, whether this assumption is based upon education or experience, it simply and only leads to staid ignorance. It leads to a person who feels they have nothing more to learn from anyone who has a different opinion than they do. When we subscribe to this understanding we cease learning, and only begin collecting information that fits our perspective.
You see, I notice that liberals like my mom get their "facts" from liberal sources (of course according to her they are the "truth"), and I notice that conservatives like my dad get their "facts" from conservative sources (once again, according to him these sources are the "truth"). Basically, I see people only listening to their own opinions and bolstering "facts" which back up what they already believe. They ceased listening worse yet and most inexcusable they have ceased learning.
Lent challenges that behavior. Lent reminds us that we are simply animated dust and one day, all of us will return to that dust. As the kids would say "we're really not all that". Lent reminds us to possibility of a break-through open in our cloistered lives. Lent reminds us that, in the end, we have much to learn, much to hope for, and much in common with one another we are family. We are all seeking, or hopefully we are, something bigger than ourselves.
It is my prayer this Lent that a sense of our own fallibility and the great promise of a grander possibility will fill us with wonder, awe and humility.
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