Today is Ash Wednesday and I find myself wondering what to do. Over the past few years I have become increasingly dissatisfied with the whole “giving things up” mentality of Lent. I have this ongoing conversation with my wife and she says giving things up has to do with identifying with Jesus and his sacrifice. Yet I find giving up chocolate, caffeine, or whatever else I might choose pales in comparison and truthfully, isn’t that much of a sacrifice. I also find that ‘giving up stuff’ can even feed my pride. I find myself fighting the temptation to say, “Hey, I’m giving up this for Lent and I really like this and it is really hard to give it up.” When I’m able to give things up…I feel like I’m somehow a success.
So, now I’m struggling to figure out what exactly to do. If Lent is a time to reflect on my life, my mortality and whether I’m ready to “meet my maker” I’m not sure that giving up chocolate is a very effective way to do it.
While there has been a strong tradition in the church toward fasting during Lent (perhaps the reason we tend to give up stuff like sweets is because that is much easier that the fasts of meat and meals of the past), there is also a tradition of refocusing on prayer and scripture, and reorienting our lives. I find that I don’t always see the connection between giving up items such as sweets and a reorientation of my life.
So now I’m focusing on two things: One, finding activities that I can add to my life during Lent that will make me more aware of God and two, giving up activities that distract me from my relationship with God. My hope is that this two-pronged approach will better enable me to reorient my life around Jesus and God’s kingdom.
The point of Lent, for me anyway, is that I will be more open and receptive to God. Lent is a journey toward Easter; a journey of moving away from self and toward God. It involves reflection and repentance which can lead to renewal (Easter). My prayer is that what I practice during Lent brings me to a place of resurrection on Easter.
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