I don't have a single Catholic bone in my body. Well, maybe one or two sprouting from my Irish tendencies, but that apparently isn't enough to go get ash-kicked on this fine Ash Wednesday. In fact, the only thing that even remotely likens me to Catholicism is the fact that I'm all about Jesus. Radically in love, in fact, and I'm not terribly shy about saying so. But the events of these past few months have changed my perspective a bit; not at all weakening my faith in God but significantly damaging my faith in corporate worship. So in my reluctance and my awkwardness, I tend to eye-roll my way past religious ritual as per usual, but with a new kind of foundation.
I've done the whole Lent thing before. It's not something on which non-Denominational and anti-Denominational bible-believing God-fearing Jesus-loving protestants tend to place a whole lot of emphasis, but when we do, I suppose it's because of the spirit of the Lenten season. It's about sacrifice. Not for the sake of suffering, but for the sake of focus. Listening. Paying attention. Learning something. But for me, Lent has often just been a personal challenge. In high school, I gave up cheese, chocolate, and all meats except for chicken just to see if I could, or would. Sometimes it's been deeply spiritual, and sometimes I've been plainly irreverent (i.e. "I'm giving up Lent for Lent!") but this year? Oh. I'm going to get something out of this. I'm going to learn. The hard way. The only way. I'm going to grow.
I'm giving up assholes for Lent.
Pardon the blunt-force trauma of the French in that statement, but it's absolutely true. I am sick of people in my life making an unnecessary target out of my life and my convictions. I am tired of feeling like I have to live two lives, at least. I am indescribably over pretending not to be my brilliant, radiant, resilient, giving self for the sake of being politically correct or overtly appropriate. I am done being afraid, silent...irrelevant. And I have no respect or admiration left for those who wish to keep me bound.
I am choosing, though, to look at such people as a strangely-wrapped and, often times, booby-trapped gift. It's another gift of grace. Grace that helps me ease out of this community and not feel like I'm leaving so many people behind. I will be of course, but during this season of my life, the assholes are seeming far more vocal than the lovely ones.
Take yesterday, for example. I got into graduate school. Somebody, somewhere, is going to let me have my fair shot at a PhD in astrophysics, because my life is awesome. But I was too fixated on a mildly insensitive comment made by somebody who came all-up-in-my-space for probably no reason, with nothing relevant to add to the conversation. Because everything feels incredibly offensive to this hyper-sensitive version of me, and because I don't want to feel like somebody has shot an actual arrow into my stomach anymore. So...I'm done.
I'm done! I'm freeing myself. I choose to graciously back out instead of radically throw blind punches. I choose to be thankful for an easy transition out of this place, because literally five hours after I graduate, I will be on an airplane, just flying, flying away. I'm done trying to comply to ridiculous and irrelevant standards that do not fit me although they may fit others. I choose to fixate on the wonderful people in my life, my life-saving network, my saving graces, my graceful saviors. If you are a person who wishes to nit-pick me without knowing me, judge me without speaking to me directly, or behave approximately thirty years below your actual age, then please believe that I will free myself from your grasp as immediately as possible. Lent lends itself to freedom. It is the entr'acte to Easter's cabaret. It's about new life, new growth, defying death, choosing to see the light, and, damn it, loving the grace of Jesus and grace in general...regardless of where you may be in life.
But if you choose to stay, and if you are a genuinely beautiful human, and if you will join me in an endless cycle of giving and accepting grace, then please know that I appreciate you beyond words. And most importantly, know that you will be cared for, spoken for, and loved. Loved deeply, loudly, and endlessly.