Ash Wednesday 2007
Got an email from someone yesterday asking me what was acceptable to “give up” for Lent? That’s the usual question isn’t it? What am I going to give up this year?
The better question may be to ask why do I want to give up whatever it is I am going to sacrifice. Well, I could give up eating dessert. Besides, by giving up dessert I could kill two birds with one stone – make a sacrifice and lose weight all at the same time. I’m going to give up eating chocolate, or stop smoking, or quit drinking. All good things to stop doing and all for good reasons.
At some point, though, it almost sounds like a New Year’s resolution. Of which, I recall, few of us ever wind up keeping.
What I pray is that the season of Lent is more meaningful than making some temporary sacrifice. My hope is that Lent can be a place where we can lay some things aside so that there might be some space in our lives for God to create formation within us. Let me offer three suggestions for creating space in our lives.
First, simplicity. The spiritual life is best lived in simplicity. But, living in our world in a simple manner is really difficult. Most of us would probably like to live simpler lives but we also have to acknowledge that that might not be possible. I don’t have any easy answers.
A few years ago, a friend suggested to me that every day I leave the house with either something to throw away or give away. It does make me mindful of the amount of just “stuff” that I have. Simplify, my friend told me.
Slowing down, taking time to breathe, taking a long slow walk, cleaning out the garage, all things that can help us simplify our lives.
Simplifying my life can create space in it for God to do God’s work of forming me and molding me into a useful vessel. A vessel that can serve others.
Second, solidarity. Besides being a time of “giving up,” Lent can also be a time of giving. Being in solidarity with someone or a cause that needs our help. It might be an organization that could use some of our time. Maybe a neighbor needs us to fix them dinner or mow their lawn. Possibly someone in our family needs our attention. By being in solidarity with someone in need, we are ministering to our Lord Jesus. Jesus tells that when we minister to least of these we are ministering to Jesus.
Finally, community. When we gather in community we strengthen and encourage one another. We all need the community to come along aside us and walk with us as we journey through the season of Lent. Walking by ourselves is lonely and we can lose our way, but by joining hands with one another we can be assured that we will make our way out of the desert of Lent.
What’s acceptable to give up for Lent? That’s a really good question that takes some time to ponder and pray over. Whatever you decide, I pray that you can create a little extra space for God to do some work. The Lord be with you and those to whom you serve and love.