I Gave Up Shame For Lent

Photo by Isabella and Louisa Fischer on Unsplash

By Nora Parker

For my entire Christian life, closing in on 20 years,  I’ve been part of denominations that didn’t observe Lent. I think it’s too tradition/ritual oriented for the churches I’ve been a part of.

Coming from a pagan home, ritual has always felt like something missing from my faith communities and at the same time is probably the reason I chose churches with more austere practices: to try to purge the lingering tie-dye from my soul.

I’ve been shedding evangelicalism from the inside out over the past year, and I’m finding that I’m more honest with myself. Even during my own past years of blandness, I envied rituals within other forms of Christianity. Those around me seemed to view these practices as antiquated and pagan appeasing, but I disagreed inwardly.

Now that I’m a complete heretic, I’m diving into Lent.

(Make no mistake: by “diving in,” I mean completely half-assing it.)

I’ve been vaguely familiar with Lent. I first learned of it as a necessity following the debaucheries of Mardi Gras, and as an explanation for why Macdonald’s traditionally rolls out the McFish sandwich alongside the Shamrock shake. (My understanding ran deep.)

Lest you think I’m taking Lent too lightly, I do care deeply about Jesus’ suffering, his own march toward the paradoxically named Good Friday.

I still read the final chapters of each Gospel with a sinking dread. It’s something like viewing “Titanic;” you know what’s coming, but you still hope for a different ending.

Through time and space, the humiliation and torture of my good, beloved Jesus is still raw until I get to the empty tomb.

So why not stretch the walk out and let it cover a few weeks? Let’s do Lent!

I began to consider what walking those 40 days would look like for me, a complete novice. I’ve enjoyed some Lenten devotions, images, and poetry. I’ve loved reading about what others were doing for Lent.

One of the most irreverent things I’ve seen was a calling out of all the young Catholic women conveniently giving up chocolate and potato chips for Lent to prepare for bikini season. (I’m not sure if this is funny or darkly sexist.)

At the beginning of Lent, I watched an online service performed by Kate Bowler and Nadia Bolz-Weber, though I didn’t have a “thing to give up” picked out at that point. Instead, I’ve found myself loafing around spiritually.

See, there’s this part of me, (and if you aren’t familiar with “parts work” in therapy, particularly with Internal Family Systems, you might enjoy wasting an afternoon learning about it on Google), that is the embodiment of restlessness and destruction.

In the last year of my life, through therapy and a lot of journaling, I’ve met this part of myself. He’s a he, and I’ve invited him to sort of lay around on a couch inside my soul and just recuperate. Most of the time, he can be found just dozing and generally taking up the entire couch. When I’m overwhelmed by the shit storm of life, he’s usually the one that is inside longing to wreck things.

He is my spiritual inspiration at the moment. It’s the part of me that teaches, “there are a thousand things I’m not ‘over’ that I’m still dealing with, so if you think I’m going to be guilted into anything, you are mistaken.” It’s the part of me that is happy to look around and spectate spiritually. The end. That’s it. 

That’s what I bring to the spiritual table this Lenten season: nothing, with a barely contained side of rage. 

Now, some Karen-ish part of me suggests I ought to give up the “rage” for Lent. But that Karen-ish part can eff-off.

Instead, I choose to give up shame. And honestly, I don’t think I have any shame left, so the sacrifice is not a terribly great one. It requires virtually no effort whatsoever.

Nevertheless, I get to pick. 

And I pick shame as my offering. 

And I’m not sorry.

*Love this essay? Buy me a coffee. It’s like a tip jar for our writers.*

Nora Parker is absolutely positive about few facts beyond the undeniable truth that she is indecisive and that Jesus represents a radical kind of love. She is in awe of her two daughters, (a teen and a toddler), and enjoys the patient love of a good man. Nora is relearning practically everything, and some things for the first time, like how to be a beneficial ally to the marginalized. Her passions include but are not limited to coffee, art, birth and motherhood, writing, sleeping, carbohydrates, and β€œliking” things.

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