Oh oh, that scary monster that rules the weeks before the Easter Bunny pops up is upon us!
LENT, the miser who wants to damper fun and trample pleasure has reared his head again, ready to make any Jesus follower feel bad for not engaging in the practice at all, or for finding practicing it a struggle each and every day.
I jest, but with that kernel of truth still irritatingly poking under the skin’s surface all the while. It’s only too easy to feel spent at Lent.
The first time I practiced Lent was a kind of experiment in engaging forms of Christian spirituality that I didn’t grow up with. It was something I always wanted to do but felt compelled not to. Growing up in a Protestant church, I was ahead of the curve of my peers, who sneered at my Catholic endeavour. Where is the grace in giving up something? Was I become a flagellant, literally beating my body to get God’s love? Was I letting works-righteousness have a comeback?
I think the first thing I gave up might have been refined sugar. Looking back, I should have made better parameters. Discovering refined sugar in everything from ketchup to bread, the task before me ballooned, as did my cravings for the daily fix my body was used to.
Lent is not for the faint-hearted, but neither does it need to be a form of self-torture. As I’ve grown into the practice these past two decades I’ve come to learn that giving up something each year can even be spiritually therapeutic.
We don’t give up something because its bad, but because sometimes it’s good to remember that all the regular niceties of our life are sourced in God, and that Jesus himself gave up equality with the Father to take on flesh to rescue us from our self-inflicted wounds. More than that, he gave up that very frail human life to wash away my shame and guilt. In giving up chocolate, alcohol, social media, or television to give myself to pray and meditate on the origin of all good things, I find some healing from my sickness of incessant self-fulfillment.
The secret to Lent for me has become focusing on the good thing I can do with my time or body in those moments when the cravings kick in. It’s a built in reminder that I live most of my days oblivious to how blessed I am to enjoy so many great treats afforded to us in Western culture.
If you haven’t practiced Lent before, can I suggest starting with something small and following through. There is a wisdom gained in sticking to it, and character is formed in getting back up on the horse those times you slipped and gripped again what you said you were giving up. It’s a chance to experience the very grace you might be afraid of losing in embracing giving something up.
Nancy, our beloved Director of Pastoral Care, pointed out a great book to us at staff meeting – The Good of Giving Up by Aaron Damiani. Perhaps this is something would find helpful to read through this season.
There are some helpful devotions he’s provided on the topic of Lent that you might find helpful. You can find them here: The Good of Giving Up
Unless, of course, you’re giving up Lent for Lent. But remember, in the process, you just might be giving up a great chance to grow closer to Jesus this season.