Wednesday, February 9th, 2005 • No Comments on Forty Days
I was a voracious reader when I was a child, much more so than I am now (real life—and the internet—intrudes on my reading time). I read everything I could get my hands on—twice. By first grade I was reading on a fourth grade reading level, by fifth grade I was reading adult fiction and nonfiction. I missed out on a lot of adolescent and young adult literature because I was such an advanced reader, but the whole world opened up to me as my reading skills improved.
I went through phases of wanting to read everything on a particular subject. Starting in fifth grade, and well into sixth grade, I developed an obsession with Joan of Arc. I was utterly fascinated by this young, uneducated French girl who became a soldier, died a martyr, was idolized as a national hero and canonized as a saint. The fact that she was burned at the stake as a virginal nineteen year old kind of paled in my mind in comparision to her remarkable life. In fact, her tragic death only made her that much more appealing to me. I was in awe of such strength, sacrifice and suffering. I was thrilled to find a female historical figure who actually deserved my respect. (Betsy Ross? Dolly Madison? C’mon, give me a break.)
A couple years after my love affair with Joan, I became fascinated by the lives of cloistered nuns, particularly the Poor Clares. I’m not sure why living a life dedicated to prayer and poverty, separate from the rest of the world, appealed to me. I was a weird kid. On some level, though, it was the Joan of Arc obsession all over again—sacrifice, suffering, believing in something bigger and more powerful than my small, insignificant life. I spent years talking about becoming a nun, and I was only mostly joking. The closest I ever came was dressing as one for Halloween (um, I was a punk nun, actually). I still have the habit somewhere…
All of this brings me to Lent. There is something pure and real about making a sacrifice during the weeks between Ash Wednesday and Easter. It seems noble, like Joan of Arc, like the Poor Clares. Granted, it’s a much smaller sacrifice—there is no burning stake, no isolation from the world. But still, it’s symbolic.
I’m all about the symbolism, have I mentioned that?
So. In the name of St. Joan, St. Clare and all the other amazing women who have dedicated their lives to suffering for a cause (because Jesus has a pretty big fan club already), I’m going to make a sacrifice for Lent. I’m giving up coffee. I was going to give up chocolate, but I can’t quite bring myself to do that this year, my first year of giving something up for Lent. Maybe next year.
In the meantime, I have forty days to ponder my choice. Forty days of drinking hot chocolate and iced tea when I go to the coffee shop or bookstore. Forty days of walking around like a zombie, half asleep. Forty days of suffering. Forty days of sacrifice.
Funny thing is, I’m not even Catholic.