Thursday, March 13, 2014

Lessons From a Well-Worn Sweater

I've been wearing the same clothes for a week and a day.


It's not that I don't have more clothes, but a friend invited me into a Lenten exercise to wear just 6 articles of clothing for the period of Lent leading up to Easter (inspired by Labour Behind the Label, an advocacy group for garment workers).

Lent traditionally encourages folks to take on a fast of their choosing to create an awareness and open space for more reflection and prayer in preparation for Easter. Often people choose to fast from a certain food or drink, like sugar, chocolate or coffee. Several people I know are fasting from social media (great idea!).

When Steph invited me to this exercise, it sounded awful. And hard. And boring.

So I knew I should definitely do it.

Because Lent isn't supposed to be easy. It is supposed to remind is of the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus and God. It's supposed to remind us that the world doesn't revolve around us.

So, I'm a week and a day in and I'm starting to get bored of my clothes. But I will tell you what.

I'm becoming more aware of my privilege as I look at the rows and piles of unused clothing that hang in my closet and sit in my drawers. I'm thanking God for the people who made my shirt, those who made my jeans as I put them on day after day. I'm becoming more aware of all the people who support my cushy lifestyle...the farm workers who picked my organic spinach, my Fuji apple, the miner who drilled the oil for the gas in my car, the people who clean the restroom at the YMCA where I work. I am thinking of those who are homeless every time I feel a little chilly and reach for the same sweater.

I'm starting to "see" people, even if I am not actually laying eyes on them. This Lenten exercise is giving me a broader perspective.

This week in my Holy Yoga classes I taught this passage from Isaiah 58:5-7 (The VOICE):

What kind of a fast do I choose? Is a true fast simply
        some religious exercise for making a person feel miserable and woeful?
    Is it about how you bow your head (like a bent reed), how you dress (in sackcloth),
        and where you sit (in a bed of ashes)?

        Is this what you call a fast, a day the Eternal One finds good and proper?
No,what I want in a fast is this:
        to liberate those tied down and held back by injustice,
        to lighten the load of those heavily burdened,
        to free the oppressed and shatter every type of oppression.
      A fast for Me involves sharing your food with people who have none,
        giving those who are homeless a space in your home,
    Giving clothes to those who need them, and not neglecting your own family.

I'm so grateful that I follow a God who isn't interested in empty, religious ritual. Instead, He is interested in opening my eyes to the things that He sees, interested in opening my heart to the things that His heart beats for.

There are many more weeks of Lent and I am sure this journey will have it's ups and downs. But for today, I'm grateful for this fast and what I'm learning.

Here are my items. I cheated. I picked 7. Because I am a "P" on the Myers-Briggs and narrowing down anything is a near impossibility. Also because between March and April, temperatures can vary between 30 and 80. Which is exactly what it did between Tuesday and today. I'm giving myself grace.

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