A hunter in the desert saw Abba Anthony enjoying himself with the brethren and he was shocked. Wanting to show him that it was necessary sometimes to meet the needs of the brethren, the old man said to him, "Put an arrow in your bow and shoot it." So he did. The old man then said, "Shoot another," and he did so. Then the old man said, 'Shoot yet again," and the hunter replied "If I bend my bow so much I will break it." Then the old man said to him, "It is the same with the work of God. If we stretch the brethren beyond measure they will soon break. Sometimes it is necessary to come down to meet their needs." When he heard these words the hunter was pierced by compunction and, greatly edified by the old man, he went away. As for the brethren, they went home strengthened.
By the Abbas standards, we Americans are seldom about the bow. We value entertainment, relaxation, leisure. I wonder if Abba Anthony saw us today, if he'd think we ever picked up the bow, much less stretched it out.
At the same time, we are a stressed out people, and not because we are too stringent in our spiritual discipline. We're stressed out about traffic, schedules, jobs and bosses and lack thereof. As I type this, I think it may be unfair to compare eras. Anthony lived in a desert and had to worry about scarcity of food. It's likely every age and place has it's own set of stressors.
My point being . . . .
The above story of Anthony came to mind this morning as I found myself tensing up about what I was doing about lent, about how it's starting tomorrow, how I didn't have a completely firm plan in place for how I would be observing it this year. Jesus had something to say about that, too. Don't worry about tomorrow . . . I
So, I remembered that today is Fat Tuesday. Mardis Gras. Fastnacht. Among other names. Today is a day to relax the bow and enjoy ourselves. Dressing for work, I remembered to put on my purple shirt with the my green-tinged khakis. (It's not exactly Mardis Gras colors, but my coworker from New Orleans, perhaps, will appreciate the effort.) This evening, I'll go to my church's pancake supper and try not to obsess about what this will do to my blood sugar readings later in the evening.
I'll worry about ashes and dust tomorrow.