Sloth. It’s not just a strange, adorable animal we love to watch in videos. It’s also one of the “Seven Deadly Sins,” and one that I find hanging around in my daily life.
I didn’t think about sloth in particular when I chose my Lenten practices for this year, but it turns out to be the very beast (sorry) I’m trying to walk away from.
To be clear, I’m a pretty active person. I walk to work, run long distance, and I’m also very social. But the fact is, every night I look forward to getting home and enjoying what I tell myself I’ve earned: as much time on the couch watching TV and eating as I want. It’s relaxing, I figure, and takes no mental or physical energy.
This is the proverbial sloth in the room.
Yes, unwinding is good, but here’s the problem: I’m not really getting any rest from this. Sure, I’m lounging, and my brain takes a rest if I’m watching something inane; but as a Christian, rest means something different than it does for other people. Rest means Sabbath. Sabbath is the day of the week that we hold sacred, the day when we rest from our usual work and worries, the day that we give back to God and use to worship God. So ironically, my approach to getting the sloth out of my life is to bring the Sabbath into it, at the end of each day.
Every night during Lent, I turn off the TV by 10 p.m. and spend the last part of my evening either in the quiet or listening to music. In the past week, I’ve done many things with that time: prayer, writing, reading, drawing, singing hymns while folding laundry, and yoga. I’m taking the time to do whatever feels right on that particular day, but treating it as a mini-Sabbath where I sit (or stretch) with God. It takes discipline, and sometimes I feel impatient or too tired, but I believe it’s the right response to God’s desire to be closer to me.
When I think about the sloth, I realize we’ve slighted her by naming her after one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Being a couch potato isn’t the same as being a mammal that is perfectly designed for its way of life — giant claws for gripping branches, long limbs for swinging from tree to tree, and brown or red fur to match the forest. The humble sloth works with what she’s given. And as a human, I happen to have been given an able body, an able mind, and most importantly grace from God. If the sin of sloth, for humans, is to let our gifts go to waste, then I hope to change my habits, at least for these 40 days, and make use of all that I have been given. I’m lucky to have an apartment where I can take refuge from the noisy city, and music to listen to, and a journal to write in, and multiple Bibles to read from. But more than the luck of my circumstances, I know that I have grace from God, and so I am forgiven when I turn away from my sins, and try to begin a new life in Christ – even when that’s just folding laundry instead of watching The Bachelor (remember, only God can judge me).
Lent is not really about trying to suffer like Jesus did (not that I would ever use the word “suffering” to describe missing the “will he propose or won’t he” moment on The Bachelor). Instead, Lent is about showing our gratitude for what Jesus has done for us by giving back part of ourselves (and repenting that I let my roommate get me hooked on a reality show about unrealistic dating). Lent is also not about self-improvement, or showing my roommate what a good Christian I am. Lent is about asking God to help us repent in our daily lives.
Sometimes at night I talk to God about how I’m sorry that I don’t feel like talking to God. And while I’m trying to repent from my slothly habits, I think I might look a little like the actual sloth – sitting quietly, aware of my surroundings, accepting the grace of God, and just being.
Liz Schmitt is the Creation Care Campaign Associate at Sojourners.
Image: Baby sloth, Vilainecrevette / Shutterstock.com