Passion in Lent
When a friend calls and says, “I read this book, and I thought of you,” it can make you wonder why, especially when the name of said book is Mating in Captivity! But my curiosity grew until I finally gave in and read it. What I found was engaging and thoughtful – a book in which author Esther Perel tackles the paradox of our modern world: how to maintain passion in our committed relationships. Perel wagers that passion for life is really about seeing with new eyes, what is front of us.
For Perel, the secret to long-term, passionate relationships is our ability to live in the tensions between familiarity and mystery, intimacy and transcendence, comfort and ecstasy. This is true for both our spiritual and physical relationships. Passion is about the push and pull of these opposite needs. Religion, however, often lets the two ends of the tension drift apart:
And, as a result, both ‘spirit’ and ‘flesh’ wind up being boring and uninspiring, or superficial. When faced with the tension between the safe and the mysterious, the stable and the dynamic, individuals as well as communities tend to choose the predictable over the provocative. The result is that on Sunday mornings, our worship flows along easily; we tell you what is going to happen, before it happens. Rarely do we attempt anything that could be embarrassing and seldom do we do anything that involves our whole self (especially from the neck down). For the most part, we Episcopalians have thrown our lot in with stability, for the church long ago decided that ennui, or boredom, was religiously ‘safer’ than élan, or enthusiasm – especially when the latter has to do with our bodies. Not only is embodied-living usually out of bounds in the world of the church, but our choices for predictability in our worship leave little room for the awesome power of the living Holy Spirit. We limit ourselves and our desire for those who would enter our sacred space and alter it in unpredictable ways. Tamed in body and spirit, we wonder why, over time, we feel less and less fulfilled, and our pews are less and less full?
As I read Perel’s book, I continually caught myself wondering how to get passion of Body and of Spirit back into our life of faith and worship. In this age of "hook-up" church, or no church (abstinence), being committed is especially challenging, and yet freeing at the same time. We can choose to be committed and open ourselves to the desire and passion that comes with desiring and wanting God.
What would Sunday morning be like if we experienced it as “date night with God?” How can church keep our souls’ fires burning? I asked these questions, because for me, everything (even sex) is ultimately about God and our relationship with God. Mark (my spouse) suggested that these might be questions to ponder during the Lenten season. After all, Lent is a time for us to consider our lives and our faith. So I invite you to join me in the questioning, Tuesday Evenings at 7pm in the church parlor. I will bring snacks.