COLUMN: Jessica Iron Joseph — Feb. 28, 2014

Jessica Iron Joseph
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Jessica Iron Joseph

I’m about to enter into my third season of Lent, and each year I get more and more excited about it. I’m not Catholic or Anglican, but I have friends and family of both denominations that are devout in their faiths. Observing their yearly sacrifices eventually inspired me to pray alongside them during Lent.

Does anyone make spiritual goals anymore?

I think the more spiritually-inclined people make such goals on a frequent basis. They have a deeper connection to God, likely borne of their constant communication with Him. But the rest of us can take the opportunity to renew a connection to God and all of creation at such designated times of the year, and maybe eventually strive toward a daily commitment.

I am one of those people who really enjoys praying and fasting. I don’t know why. The older I get, the more I appreciate the shucking of earthly distractions and temptations in favour of spending concentrated amounts of time on prayer and God.

There is a reason different forms of fasting exist in almost every culture; from Lent, to Ramadan, to Yom Kippur and Sun Dances, etc. It is because it works. By denying ourselves food, water, or physical comforts we force our bodies to take a backseat to our souls, and allow our spirits to rise in communion with the Creator, to pray for ourselves and/or others, and to celebrate that amazing connection with which we have been given.  

When Lent rolls around, I’m always interested in the things people abstain from, or the things they try to add into their lives. I read an article where a priest said that we should try to use Lent as a stepping stone to sustain whatever changes we are making in our life throughout the year. I love this idea, and have noticed upon taking my annual 40-plus day commitment, I am more inclined to keep the momentum going year-round.

I’ve been everything from a vegan to a vegetarian, to a pescatarian and a meat-eater. I’ve had years where I haven’t touched a drop of alcohol or cigarettes, and others where I’ve occasionally had wine and a smoke. For me, physical abstentions aren’t difficult. But occasionally giving up certain items helps me to find balance in my diet and re-evaluate my health goals.

I can tell you what is difficult for me, which is what I focus on during times like Lent. For me, it is aligning my thoughts and behaviours with my spiritual goals. I usually aim to be more forgiving, patient, generous, kind and loving. I try to curb my inner sarcasm, and judgments of others. I also don’t like it when I put myself first. And I always intend to pray and meditate more consistently.

I am a work in progress.

My husband sometimes teases me that I am usually on a self-improvement campaign, and my best friends say I’m always changing. So, I also try to keep these thoughts in mind, and remember that the goal is not perfection. I’ll leave that to God. 

For me, giving up something symbolic like Facebook pushes me to pursue those greater spiritual goals that help me to be a better person, someone befitting of the honor the Creator has granted me with: life. Created in his holy image, I am a human incarnation, a vessel, instrumental in creating change on this earth. Every day I am afforded another chance, indeed multiple opportunities to show others that God exists through human goodness. Through small, random acts of kindness, or large, loving gestures, I try not to take my life for granted, but rather use it to help others. I am forever grateful to God and happy to be a humble servant.

Maybe it all sounds a bit much, but each year my love for the Creator grows more intense, and I feel fortunate to feel that love in return. It is this reciprocal love that guides me. When I forget to nurture this relationship, and take more than I give, I am more liable to revert to a chaotic, self-centered existence and all the drama that that encompasses. Devotion is not easy, but it is incredibly rewarding.

I can honestly attest that since revisiting my spiritual goals and steadily working towards them, I’ve noticed the quality of my life has increased immeasurably. I don’t mean in a superficial way either, but in the sense that the joy in my heart and soul have significantly deepened and I know that I owe all of this to my love and faith in God. Any chance to establish or renew spiritual goals is a wonderful time for me.

Cheers to another great season of Lent!

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