soft sheets instead of ascetic depravation

by rebecca on February 24, 2010

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       I love soft sheets. I adore a fluffy blanket and a heavy quilt. There is nothing so cozy as lying in the dark of early morning with my skin smoothed by Egyptian cotton and the weight of covers.

       I have not always known this pleasure. Only recently have I purchased quality sheets and blankets. For most of my life I have been perfunctory when it comes to my bed clothes. Oh, what a waste!

       When I was nineteen I took a house sitting job at a home with a king sized bed. The wide bed was covered with no less than seven down pillows. There was a stuffed comforter and sheets that smelled like lavender. I think the whole week I had that job, I never left the bed.

       Comfort was not a highly praised value in my upbringing. In fact, while not out right stated, I think it was distained. The pain of depravation was reason for pride. The hurt of bodily exertion was celebrated. But neither of these came with a purpose.

       Who can stand the icy water the longest when wading through the river? Whose pack is heaviest and can carry it without complaint? Who will eat the awful, burnt cookies so that they don’t go to waste? These were the triumphs of my childhood.

       While I am all for adventures and don’t like to be wasteful, I also think there is nothing particularly wrong with titanium cookware that weighs significantly less and, if my toast burns, I’m willing to start over with a fresh piece of bread.

       Gandhi and St. Francis of Assisi, while I admire them tremendously, made me think that there is something inherently evil in comfort. I fasted and denied myself every creature comfort imaginable in hopes of making every part of my being more holy. But, for me, the asceticism of all my saints worked just the opposite.

       The more I denied, the more I craved. The more I lived without, the stingier I became. Since getting my cotton sheets, my entire disposition has softened. I have become gentler with myself and with others.

       My soft bed has become a first-of-the-morning altared space where I notice how kind the world can feel against my skin. I am grateful, and, out of this first breath of gratitude I think I greet the world with a kind smile.

       Gone are my days of hair shirts, sackcloth and fasting. There is so much I don’t know about God, but of this I feel certain: I believe God wants me to be happy, and to enjoy a cozy cover.

       What about you? Do you have a blanket of comfort that helps to soften your disposition? Is there something you used to deny yourself out of a holy attempt at asceticism that now seems silly?

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