Lenten Tradition, by Stephanie Shockley, MA

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lenten season in the christian faith. During the 40 days ending on Easter Sunday, we are asked to reflect upon our relationship with God by fasting or sacrificing something important in our lives. In the past, I have chosen to give up food or drink I love and this year I am deleting social media from all my electronic devices. In addition, I am adding an act of service to my daily routine in the hopes of enhancing the life of someone in need who makes sacrifices every day.

While sitting on the pew at the 7am service waiting to receive the ashes, I wondered why this religious tradition is so important to me. To be honest, I do not attend church on a regular basis and my appearances are sporadic. I occasionally join family and friends at their religious services that do not follow my religious beliefs and church doctrine and I am honored to visit their houses of worship with them and learn more about their spiritual experiences.

So how did my loyalty to Ash Wednesday begin? Many years ago I was asked to join a spiritual book club that was a spinoff from a Bible study group. We were a group of 12 women who were members of the same church and had a similar socio-economic background. Our children attending the same schools and we all belonged to the local country club. We met every Wednesday and the commitment to attend Ash Wednesday service at noon followed by lunch was a natural transition for us. We upheld the tradition for many years and unfortunately our group does not meet anymore however I continue this annual event without my friends.

The book club was more than a group of women gathering weekly to discuss the pros and cons of the current best sellers list. These dozen women became a support group and we lifted each other up through the tough times and celebrated each others' triumphs. The Wednesday group provided a sacred space for us to expose our emotions and receive feedback, sometimes welcome, sometimes unwanted but always respected. We were women of action either on our knees being prayer warriors or by pulling up in a Suburban caravan to help one another move to a new home. We laughed and cried together and were always willing to be present and available to one another.

So as I walked away from the alter this year, I was surrounded in spirit by the KA (Kick Ass) Book Club.  The Lenten season reminds me of those 12 women and the love they extended to me and the hope they offered in the lonely and dark days of my life. They represent the spirit of Easter and the promise of a new beginning and connection to my Higher Power I choose to call God.

Stephanie Shockley, MA
Integrative Therapist, The Estuary
(615) 943-4697