02/27 Lent-Day 1 of 40.
I went to an Ash Wednesday service last night with a friend. He had never been before, and I admit, it had been way too long since I had stepped foot into a church. I had a serious anxiety attack before I arrived. I had to text another friend so she could help me breathe and ground myself. What a mess! But, upon reflection, I feel like it was meant to happen.
When we arrived at church, my friend informed me that he “never sits in the back.” I held my breath and followed. Yep… right in the front. “Oh, great. If I cause the church to explode, then at least everyone will know who started it.” Again with the anxious thoughts, Schenck?
The service started like a normal Traditional Episcopal Service. Rich in ritual. There is real comfort in going to a strange place yet feeling as if you know what is going on.
The Homily. Oh, my heart. I had no idea what to expect but it was as if it was written JUST for me. I will not go into that today, but I was moved in a beautiful way.
What I would like to express in today’s reflection is my new found appreciation for the word PASSION.
What does it mean to have passion? The dictionary gives loads of definitions. However, based on my takeaway from the Homily last night, I would like to define passion as an emotion that is deeply stirring or ungovernable.
Deeply stirring and ungovernable. Wow. When put this way, it truly sounds as if passion isn’t always positive. We’re told to dream and follow our passions. If you’re passionate, then you can make it happen. But if it is ungovernable, then how is it ever possible to be satisfied? Ungovernable. Deeply stirring. Uncontrollable… chaotic… like my anxiety, maybe? Hold that thought.
The etymology of the word passion is interesting. Our modern day interpretation, the Pastor said, has evolved from the original meaning. I am stealing this next bit from a blog I found while researching the word myself this morning. I am highlighting the points I’d like to discuss further. This all has a point, I swear.
“The word itself comes from the Latin root word, patior, which means to suffer. It’s first use in English appeared around 1175 AD. Oddly enough the word is more frequently used in writing than in speech.
Many of the modern applications of ‘passion’ no longer convey the idea of suffering at all. It’s present use is one describing an intense desire, which is often sexual in nature.
The modern use also defines passion as being an irrational force that's also irresistible. The older version didn't identify whether the force compelling you to action was rational or irrational nor did it specify whether it could be resisted. The change in the meaning of the word has increased the power of ‘passion’ over its original definition.
The root word carried the idea that a passion was an external force that made you do something or in some way to suffer. The modern version of passion is unclear on whether the driving desire originates from inside you or if it is an outside force working on you.”
Essentially, we have modernized the word passion to mean something that most of us use when we really LOVE something or DESIRE something. After hearing the Pastor and doing my own research, I have to say that the original meaning is much more applicable over this Lenten season.
I have a passion for desperately wanting people to accept me… to love me. IT IS UNGOVERNABLE and IT IS STIRRING. In fact, it can become obsessive (ungovernable, duh?). I drive myself bonkers giving and giving and denying myself a voice. This is unhealthy.
I have a passion for being perfect…. IT IS UNGOVERNABLE and IT IS STIRRING. In fact, it can become obsessive. I drive myself bonkers having two sets of rules. One for me and one for everyone else. The tolerance I have for others is vast and it stems from love. My rules are truly egocentric. I mean, really, what makes me so special as to be unable to make a mistake without it being catastrophic?
"Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." As we were marked with the cross, I was struck by the hyper-focus on myself. No one was looking at me when we walked into the Sanctuary. No one is watching me, judging me, holding me in such a harsh light that I have no room for error. No one… but me. But, if I just think about being dust… or a grain of sand in the desert… I am part of a community. I should be an individual, yes, but I should also live as part of a community. As dust, or sand, or family…
The two aforementioned passions, I believe, are the triggers for my anxiety. If it wasn’t already clear, I have anxiety in abundance (which is another word that I think we’ve modernized to have a positive connotation, but I digress).
I’d like to also assert that these two passions cause an unbelievable amount of suffering. For me and those around me. I would never, ever treat another person the way I treat myself. An outsider must find it unsettling, at the very least, to watch my passion for emotional self harm in living color.
So, how do I refocus and “give up” these 2 passions for Lent? How do I fast and focus on the 40 days of sacrifice in preparation for Easter?
My conclusion: I’m setting my brain free. I aim to control the uncontrollable and still the chaos. That is my focus for the next 40 days. I will fast by meditation... and whatever means necessary to deny the power of the anxiety monster. The ultimate sacrifice for me, I believe, would be to slay this monster who gives me so much comfort in my terror and become free. To forgive myself of my sins.