That quirky calendar has created a wide gap between the “western” Lent and the “eastern” Lent once again. All I can think is that my Peeps are going to be really really stale by the time I eat them. It’s a small thing and honestly, as I get older, peeps become less and less palatable. Let’s just say that if you are a confirmed Peep hater, you can feel a little bit justified and smug right about now and I won’t give you grief about it, I promise.
As I see Facebook posts of pals across the spectrum of the Christian faith begin their Lent season starting today, on Ash Wednesday, I am in a quiet place. I have had some strong feelings of being out of step these last several years since becoming Orthodox. Historically, those feelings of being outside make me want to dig in, to hide away or conversely, to exert my “different-ness.” I fall into a weird reactionary stance, “it’s nice for you but here is my thing…” And I’m not crazy about that reactionary stance so much anymore. It feels more divisive now, widening the distance between me and everyone else.
I usually end up in a good place with it, but like many things in my Orthodoxy journey, it’s a struggle. Since “belonging” is a watch-word for me and this “setting apart” seems to work against my belonging, I want to do it differently this time. I’m hoping to take this Orthodox pre-Lenten period with some renewed intention toward listening.
I am entering into a listening season.
This idea was something that came to me a few months ago, actually, in light of the current political climate here in the U.S. We’re at an odd time in our development. We are the world’s teenagers, and we have big guns. Having a couple of teenagers in my house at the moment myself, the analogy takes on a new and terrifying pallor. They have some power, some new authority, some new strength but not quite the historical, age-related wisdom. Not yet. They’ll get there. We’ll get there.
I make an effort to listen now more than I speak where my teens are concerned. Rather than offer unsolicited explanations and instructions, I listen to them as they explain and instruct themselves, as they work through their issues and come to new and interesting conclusions. I have a voice, of course, but mostly I am trying to listen and really hear them. It’s not my first instinct. I’d rather just tell them what to do and when to do it and how to do it and what to believe, but this listening is powerful. It seems to be a kind of antidote to normal teen angst (and normal parent of teen angst too.) So, there’s that.
At the risk of opening a political can of worms, I will only say that I am taking that listening position here as well. I think good ideas sometimes are wrapped in terrible containers, and bad ideas are often wrapped in shiny paper. By adopting a listening posture, employing discernment, prayer and then, speaking, I’m hoping I find some wisdom. It’s not perfect, but so far, so good. I may survive until November and beyond at this rate.
What does this have to do with Lent– East and West?
Those past feelings of being separate and set apart from the world, those feelings of lacking and loss and yes, envy too– I’d like to set those aside for a change. As the years go on those feelings, like the promised marshmallow peeps of my childhood, have become less and less palatable. My first instinct in politics and in teen parenting had been to rail against, to dig in, to exert some control but to step back, take a moment and just listen is amazing. It sets the whole dynamic on its ear, and new, interesting and valuable insight comes.
Maybe taking that listening posture has hidden wisdom– not just in that pre-Orthodox Lent waiting time, but further– into our 40 days as well, into Pascha, into Primaries, into Elections, into adolescence, into adulthood. Perhaps there is something strong that can be gained. It’s worth a try while this pesky calendar resists cooperation. It’s better than pining for stale peeps, right?