Though I have a lack of empirical proof to support my theory, a vast number of my friends and acquaintances seem to be atheists and agnostics. I’m surrounded by a collection of folks to whom organized religion sounds more like a form of torture than a fun, voluntary activity.
My good friend Toni asked me to hang out after work one Wednesday and I told her I couldn’t go out because I had choir practice. Her disbelieving brows echoed the “like, church choir?” that came out of her mouth, a typical reaction I get from many of my friends when they learn I attend church on a pretty regular basis.
I’m not one of those who tosses my faith in anyone’s face – I think it’s not anyone’s business but my own – but as it applies to this post I’ll share a smidge. I was raised Episcopalian (think Catholic-lite) and as an adult I’ve tended toward attending Christian churches, usually Congregational or UCC. As a girl who frequently gets stuck narrating in her own head, church has been a way for me to pull my thinking outside of myself and feel more connected to the world around me.
Last night, I drove to my church for choir practice, and discovered that the church was holding an Ash Wednesday service, with choir practice to follow. The pastor provided us all with a slip of paper that said “God, I pray for…” with space to write a prayer. Later in the service, the slips of paper were burned to ash and that ash combined with oil was used to make the oily ash (ashy oil?) crosses on foreheads of parishioners.
Here’s what I wrote on my slip:
I pray for the courage to forgive myself – to release myself from expectations of perfection and to really live my life.
Elissa, the pastor, (picture someone about my age, with a nose ring, who isn’t afraid to shake things up) looked around at everyone and said the next 40 days of Lent are about letting go. She said “now’s your chance to transform what holds you back.” This really hit home for me. Inspired by her words, I have decided to try something a little different. Rather than give up something like chocolate or soda for Lent, I’m going to let go of something every day for 42 days (yes, Lent is only 40 days, but how could I pass up a chance for 42?) and then check in to see how I’m feeling at the end.
Day 1: Today I let go of my fear of failure
I sometimes do things that feel like failure, and I sometimes do things that feel like success, but I am not my failures. Unfortunately, it also means I am not my successes. Letting go of the attachment to claiming successes as integral to my sense of self will free me from the reciprocal need to claim the failures as some dysfunctional aspect of myself. I am giving myself permission to fail and to really know it doesn’t define me.
I will also admit, since I started working on a post about letting go, I haven’t been able to get the song from Frozen out of my head…