Friends, my favorite liturgical season is almost upon us. We are a little more than a week away from Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday and then, Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the Lenten season. We know Lent is the pre-Easter season, similar to Advent hallmarking Christmas. It is our opportunity to prepare for the celebration of the Easter season and our Lord's death and Resurrection.
Lent can sometimes sneak up on us, giving us only a day or two to decide what we are giving up. I wanted to just take a moment to encourage you to really consider your faith life this week and how you can use the Lenten season to truly prepare. Lent is built on three tenants: prayer, alms giving, and fasting. All three of these can be used together to create a powerful experience that will help us to draw closer to Christ over the forty days of Lent.
I love the reminder and opportunity Lent gives us; that we can and should try to do better for God because God is coming back someday! Easter is the reminder that there will be a Second Coming and we won't be ready unless we try. An ideal Lenten experience would add prayer and opportunities to give as well as taking away things that pull us away from God.
The "giving up" thing is the most common part of Lent we hear about, "I'm giving up chocolate" or "I'm giving up drinking" or everyone's favorite, Facebook. We shouldn't give up something because it would be "hard" or possibly because deep down, it would be easy. We should give up things that we have a dependence the way we should depend on God, like coffee or happy hour. We should give up things that take time away from our priorities, like Netflix. Or we could give up something small, that we take for granted the way we take our faith and family for granted so frequently, like our pillows or listening to the radio on our way to work. We give up things, not to prove that we can or to suffer for our faith, but to help us realize there are greater things in life than our worldly possessions and experiences.
I will be offering a Lenten series this year, starting on Ash Wednesday. A Mindful Lenten Experience is going to focus on the three tenants I mentioned earlier and apply them to our daily life, helping to make a Lent a more intentional faith journey this year. Please join us for this opportunity to grow and share in our faith together.
Almost four years ago, I settled in for what I now know would be my last single girl's Valentine's Day. My roommate and her boyfriend were out for a romantic night of Applebee's and I had the room to myself. I snuggled into my twin bunk bed, opened a package of Thin Mints, and picked up Fifty Shades of Grey.
Even at 19, I realized pretty quickly what complete and utter nonsense that book was; normalizing a relationship that had all the markers of emotional abuse, treating childhood trauma as an excuse for such behavior, and encouraging me to mistake unhealthy sexual decisions as "liberating". I tossed it aside after the first few chapters.
Four years later, and what started off as fan-fiction of a teen series (Twilight) is now its own international phenomenon, normalizing what only can be described as a wrong. Sexual liberation does not equal rape, pedophilia, and pornography. Love does not equal "fixing them", lust, and control. And this movie is not about any sort of relationship we should hope for in our lives.
When we see it on the big screen, in all of its glitz and drama, we forget the story really being told: of a young man who was victim of pedophilia; a young woman who was stalked and harassed into a sexual relationship; of a couple who rushed into bed without real consideration of what sex means. And while we may pat ourselves on the back, calling ourselves adults, and be confident in our ability to distinguish fact from fiction, what are we teaching our children and teens when we post about how much we loved this movie? What are we encouraging in our relationships? And what are we them teaching to expect in theirs?
I cannot begin to tell you how damaging Twilight was on my relationships in high school. I had unrealistic, unhealthy expectations for my romantic relationships that I could only recently traced back to that noxious teen romance. It took years of growing up to realize how much of a subliminal influence it had on me. I cannot imagine how damaging Fifty Shades is.
The characters are not "relationship goals". We owe our friends and family the love and respect to not fall for it and recognize that this film isn't a story worth sharing, it isn't worth our money, and certainly isn't worth our relationship with God.