A Lenten Reflection from Rev. Jessica Williams, Central Seminary Registrar and International Students Officer
At the start of 2019 I made a New Year’s Resolution to try to reduce the amount of plastic I use, especially single-use plastic. I started bringing cloth napkins and silverware to work to eat my lunch, switching out bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel for bar soap, and ditching the plastic shopping bags for cloth bags made from my old t-shirts. But old habits die hard and just two months into the new year, my practice had already waned.
So at the start of Lent, I was inspired by an article inviting those who observe Lent to consider the practice of eliminating single-use plastic during our 40-day journey. I decided to make this my Lenten commitment, both to observe this practice through a lens of spiritual intentionality and awareness and to reinvigorate my previously made commitment to reduce the amount of plastic waste I consume.
But this year my Lenten commitment is a big fail! I have failed every day. I forget to ask for no straw when I go out for lunch. I forget to pack my silverware and water bottle. I forget to take my cloth bags to the grocery store. Each day in Lent I have thrown away a piece of plastic that I only used once and so each day in Lent I have been reminded of the temptation of convenience and the failures of easy consumption. While I have made some small steps toward reducing my plastic consumption, it feels like I take a tiny step forward and 4 giant steps back each day. My Lenten journey this year is a serious struggle.
But each day in Lent I have also increased my intentionality and awareness of my relationship to God and creation and how my habits of convenient consumption contribute to a cycle of abuse of creation. Even as I strive to plan ahead, to remember, and to prepare to consume less plastic and produce less plastic waste, my failures each day remind me just how unaware I am of my reliance on convenient consumption of plastic. Like the 40-days of Lent, the path to a low-waste lifestyle is a journey of temptations and failures, but ultimately of coming to greater awareness and intentionality to live a life fully alive with all of creation. And so I give thanks for this season and for this commitment at which I consistently fail. For I am reminded each day that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. And I am also reminded of the importance of the journey, full of struggle and failure, that seeks a life in closer communion with God and creation. For that, for each of us, I pray.