This is Ash Wednesday. It begins a season of examination in which we ask ourselves the hard questions needing to be asked: “How have I failed to live in Christ’s likeness? With whom have I been unkind? In what ways have I participated in systems which perpetuate poverty? Who do I need to forgive for having been an &#@@*@^$# ? How can I be a better Christian, or for that matter, a better person, or, for that matter, not say &#@@*@^$# too often? What have I done which, as Anne Lamott says, tended to incline Jesus to drink vodka from Kai’s dog bowl out of pure exasperation?”
And yet, I am convinced that questions about what bad things I have been able to accomplish between naps might not be the only list-making of Lent. What if we were to ask questions like “What is my response to God’s forgiveness?” and “What kind thing can I do for someone today?” and “To whom shall I write a hand-written note today complete with compliments and gratitude for a recent kindness?”
The house is ready for Lent. I used up an entire quart of heavy cream by simmering it until it just barely steamed, then stirred in a whole 20 ounce bag of dark chocolate chip morsels and whisked until it was a thick hot chocolate- adding grand mariner, sea salt, cinnamon and a dash of cayenne pepper. I then placed the entire melty deliciousness on the back porch in a nearly liturgical ceremony to chill and hours later found a heavy chocolate mousse ready to spoon into tupperware for Lenten-tasty-treats. And that goes well with scotch, so then I needed to decant another bottle of cheap scotch into my decanter (well….I lost my taste buds, but I did not go blind!) In the end, with 40 days worth of chocolate mousse and scotch on hand; I am ready to keep a holy Lent. Obviously my plan is not to give up chocolate or scotch. My plan is harder.
My Lent will be a season of interviews. I have chosen 20 people in my life to chat with – one every other day throughout Lent. These friends will help to hold me accountable to how I want to be on the planet as a human. I will tell them the things I have done which I am not proud of (like using prepositions at the ends of phrases and lying and saying unkind things about &#@@*@^$#s) and I will ask their advice about how they think I might live my best possible life. After 20 dedicated conversations with people I love and trust and 20 non-conversation days to process the phone calls and make notes in my journal, I feel that the 40 days will have been well-spent. I will learn a lot about myself and I will learn about my most beloved friends – that they can hear what is true and not glamorous about me and still love and even like me – the way God does. And they will leave their mark on me – an invisible line of burnt hopes mingled with their oils and mine.
And after each conversation, I will take a big bite of chocolate mousse and drink a huge gulp of scotch and toast a God who made both, and loves that I love them. Because I dare say that God is less disgusted with my sins than God is disgusted by the lack of effort to encounter, celebrate and rejoice in the beauty of life – chocolate, scotch, forgiveness and friendship for example.