Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Taking Out the Garbage as a Lenten Discipline

This morning, Ash Wednesday, when I got up to take the dog out for her morning walk, I realized that we had forgotten to take the garbage out last night.

What a coincidence. This is Ash Wednesday. It is also garbage day.

In the wintertime, taking out the garbage involves a few more steps than it does at other seasons of the year. For one thing, I often have to kick the garbage can a couple of times because the lid freezes shut. We also have to wheel the garbage can through the snow past one or two cars parked in the driveway. I have become an expert at the graceful "swoop" down as I wheel the can past the rear view mirror.

This morning, I spent a little extra time going through bags, deciding what else could be "garbage" and what I might want to save. There are a few things that are clearly useless. There are a few things that "might come in handy." There are a few things that should not ever be considered garbage.

So, this morning, as I was kicking the garbage can to loosen the lid, and as I was sorting stuff and considering what was valuable and what was not, I considered as well that this was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.

What would be a good Lenten discipline this year?

One friend of mine has an exercise plan in place. It sounds guaranteed to change her life, or at least help her lose a few pounds. A teenager I know always gave up soda. Another friend refrains from chocolate. One year I gave up buying (not reading, just buying) books. The Mayo
Clinic Diet book, which I recently bought, sounds positively Lenten to me these days. The very beginning pages tell about 5 New Habits to Develop and 5 Habits to Drop. Sounds exactly like the twin disciplines of Lent: giving up something (fasting), and taking up something.

And yet, I can't help thinking about taking out the garbage as a Lenten discpline, starting at the beginning, with kicking the can. Sometimes you have to do that, you know. Sometimes your life is just frozen shut, and nothing new can happen unless you kick it a couple of times.

Then the discernment begins; what is valuable in my life, and what is "garbage"? What things "might come in handy someday" and why do I think so? Is it true? Where does the true value of my life lie? And in the midst of it all, I remember these words:

"Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

During Lent this year, I will throw away, or somehow get rid of, one thing every day.

I'll let you know, occasionally, how it's going.

How about you?

6 comments:

Mompriest said...

As I prepare to move back to Chicago (temporarily) I am once again cleaing out and purging. I did this two years ago when I move here, also during Lent. This time the packing and move are more leisurely, intentional, and reflective. Last time it was chaos. I hope the fact that it is different this time bodes well for my entire Lenten journey and what Easter will bring.

May your purging and throwing out be a time of reflective lightness.

Jan said...

Your analogy of taking out the garbage up in the great cold North reminds me a little of our lectio divina group today contemplating on Psalm 1:15-17. I remembered how I have a broken bowl glued together that I put used tea bags in (so I can use them over for the next cup). I enjoy seeing the bowl, but the other PERFECT bowls are hidden from view. Interesting, so that I may post about this later or tomorrow. Thanks, Diane.

altar ego said...

What a great analogy. I especially like the reflection on how some part of our life can get frozen shut, like the lid of the garbage can. I like your idea of purging one thing a day. Filing is my nemesis. Perhaps I can work toward a discipline of getting things put in place and clear my office of clutter. I can be so much more productive free of clutter.

Jennifer said...

Oh, I gleaned much from this reflection, Diane. Thank you!
I'm trying to give up feeling guilty for being fallible and human.

PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

Hmmmm, bad time for me to contemplate this because I'm putting away STUFF I bought while away from home for a week. Most of which I didn't really need. But I wanted them.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

Another one of your wonderful reflections. I like the idea of getting rid of something every day for Lent. I may try to remember that next year. This year, I'm trying to give up excessive puttering in the morning so I have more time to journal.