“Okay,” my friend said. “I gave you a week to think. I want to ask the question again. Should we celebrate Lent?”
“I don’t think it’s a matter of should. I think it’s a matter of could. I think it’s less a matter of obligation and more an opportunity. If we have to give something up, we harbor a little resentment and a little pride. We resent being told we have to do something. We are proud that we measure up. And both of those get in the way of the opportunity to develop a relationship. Think about it. When your mom tells you that you have to do something, you don’t like it. At least I didn’t. Or, you do the project to build up some points, some credits.”
I took a sip of coffee. “But, what if you want to cultivate a relationship? A story might help you understand.
“Years ago, I wanted to talk to my dad about his involvement in the Korean Conflict. He was seriously wounded, but he never talked about it. The direct way wasn’t going to work. So I found a couple books about the war. I got a picture of the challenges, the frustration, the ebb and flow of the battles. A year later we had a family picnic at Cantigny, a public park with picnic areas, gardens, tanks to climb on–and a museum about the 1st Division, U. S. Army. Dad and I walked into the museum. And stopped at the map of Korea. I started talking about the battles, asking questions about his service, his feelings, the challenges there must have been for the soldiers. In one 10 minute conversation, I heard more than I had ever heard. And it allowed for another conversation a year later, with more details.
“I didn’t read the books because I had to. I wanted to know more about what had shaped my dad. Because I was a prepared listener, I was ready to hear his stories. Lent is an opportunity to give up some of what consumes our time to invest it in other things. Like being prepared to listen.”
(and my dad’s grandson turns 27 today.)