ENOUGH: A Reflection
by Sharei Green
I always made sure to give up something for Lent. I made sure to give up something I loved, something that would be hard and noticed. I often failed. Even when I succeeded, I didn’t feel “closer to God.” So what was the point? Was I not trying hard enough? Did I lack self-control? Was I not enough like Jesus because I succumbed to temptation? These thoughts and feelings were not helpful in my journey with Christ. With age and therapy, I learned that these Lenten practices were triggering trauma.
I didn’t need to be reminded that I would return to dust. Existing in a Black body is reminder enough. I didn’t want to be encouraged to do penance. Being subjected to institutional racism, white supremacy and sexism is penance enough. I didn’t need a reminder of almsgiving. How I show up in and for community is alms enough. What I needed, still need, is a reminder that I am God’s beloved, that I was created in the image of God’s self — I needed to be reminded that I am enough.
With this new, enlightened understanding, my Lenten practice has changed to fit my needs. Because I needed reminding that I was made in the image of the creator, my Lenten practice became creation. As a creative, creation came easy to me but connecting it to my journey as a Christian didn’t come as easily. I had to set intention behind it. It was choosing not to order takeout, not out of a need to fight temptation, but to provide myself the opportunity to create through cooking and to see that as holy. It was choosing not to buy a new coffee table, not out of a need to go without, but to think about how I could create my own, and declare that it was good.
Some of the language and traditional practices of the Lenten season can be harmful to siblings who are struggling. The highlighting of death, self-control, fasting, etc. impacts individuals and communities differently. When existing in BIPOC, queer, disabled, other marginalized identities and all the intersections therein, Lent can feel like a time where we are being encouraged to look at all the ways we are seen as not enough, when the world already reminds us every chance it gets. In the midst of a pandemic that has felt much like being alone in the wilderness, and with the world seemingly on fire – war, rising food and shelter costs, capitalisms value of labor over people – what would it look like to encourage new Lenten practices, that combine prayer with intentional creation? What would it look like to ask a community what it needs for ritualistic practice and create something new that better aligns with the contexts from which folks exist within?
I encourage us all to take a look at the practices and messages this Lenten (and other) season(s) that do not serve us, or our communities. I encourage us all to be brave in challenging the church to consider the context and not just do things the way we’ve always done it. To let things go when needed, resurrect something new and declare it good.