Thursday, March 17, 2011

Why I ♥ Lent

Lent.  40 days, plus Sundays.  46 days from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday.

On Monday, I realized one of the main reasons that I love it so much.

Lent is tailor-made for the introvert.  It is the 12.6% of the year where we are expected to be quiet.  And thoughtful.  When it is perfectly acceptable to walk into church 10 minutes early and sit - silently - in prayer or meditation.  And perfectly acceptable to walk out at the end of the service quietly, and without speaking to others. When, in fact, if you are not doing these things, you're sort of the odd man out.

When it is okay to say, "You know, I've been working on just bringing things down a notch, trying to spend more time praying, adopting a simpler lifestyle, spending some time alone with God."  If you say that in the middle of the summer, people stare at you like you're a freak.  If you say it in Lent, everyone nods, and then feels guilty about not doing it themselves. :-)

In Jonathon Rauch's epic (at least among introverts) essay, "Caring for Your Introvert," he writes,
Extroverts are energized by people, and wilt or fade when alone. They often seem bored by themselves, in both senses of the expression. Leave an extrovert alone for two minutes and he will reach for his cell phone. In contrast, after an hour or two of being socially "on," we introverts need to turn off and recharge. My own formula is roughly two hours alone for every hour of socializing. This isn't antisocial. It isn't a sign of depression. It does not call for medication. For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating. Our motto: "I'm okay, you're okay—in small doses."
He also draws on the experience of our introverted 30th President:
Extroverts therefore dominate public life. This is a pity. If we introverts ran the world, it would no doubt be a calmer, saner, more peaceful sort of place. As Coolidge is supposed to have said, "Don't you know that four fifths of all our troubles in this life would disappear if we would just sit down and keep still?"
So, it's easy to see why introverts would be drawn to Lent.  The only time of the year when social pressure pushes us in our natural direction.  For a heavily Americanized Lutheranism increasingly focused on "what people want," stirring up discontent to encourage political action, happy-clappy "Jesus is my boyfriend" music, a reminder that we are also called to be quiet before our Lord is appropriate. 

And besides, it makes the introverts feel at home for 46 days.  :-)

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