Lent: What to Give?

I find us at the typical halfway point for the school year–the kids no longer sleep with their backpacks on, nor do they dress in one minute flat. They’ve exchanged eagerness for apathy as they lie on their beds in the morning pulling covers over their ears hoping to snatch one more minute of sleep. The freshness of those first few weeks in a new class have given way to the tiredness and doldrom of routine.

Their mother is no better. Most nights, she packs their lunches ahead of time, but there are those nights when she slumps on the couch, fatigued and determined to not do another chore for the day. Ironing the night before becomes part of the morning haste, a haste brought on by one too many swats of the ‘snooze’ button. And at the mid-point for the school year, a new routine has emerged–a routine of frenzy and angst and the general need for a few days of ‘slow.’

I get it. After so many days of the same thing, I test the waters. I try to accomplish more in less time because the need for more sleep presses in hard, yet, all I create is more rush, less harmony, and greater fatigue. When I get to this point, I look to the next break from routine where I can start over fresh, restoring the exhilaration I felt back in August.

Perhaps those who crafted the church calendar had a sense that a break in routine is needed to keep our faith fresh, too. I look back to Christmas and think of the devotions I had with my children. My heart felt full and my love for Christ renewed as I told them the story and purpose of His birth. Now, just as my mornings gave way to rush and routine, so has much of my own time to quiet devotion.

Yet in the midst of my own faith doldrom, along comes Lent. Last week I watched my Facebook feed as friends said ‘goodbye’ for 40 days while others had their last piece of chocolate or glass of soda. In the midst of those updates, a friend posted a quotation that immediately resonated within me:

Lent is a call to renew a commitment grown dull, perhaps, by a life more marked by routine than by reflection. After a lifetime of mundane regularity or unconsidered adherence to the trappings of faith, Lent requires me, as a Christian, to stop for awhile, to reflect again on what is going on in me. I am challenged again to decide whether I, myself, do truly believe that Jesus is the Christ-and if I believe, whether I will live accordingly when I can no longer hear the song of angels in my life and the star of Bethlehem has grown dim for me. Lent is not a ritual. It is a time given to think seriously about who Jesus is for us, to renew our faith from the inside out. – Joan Chittister

When I read Chittister’s comment, I immediately thought of my own relationship with God and how the newness of Christmas had begun to wane. I thought of my mornings with rushed quiet times and rushed dressings and rushed breakfasts. In my mind, I brought the two together. I have fallen into a “lifetime of mundane regularity” as Chittister writes, and for Lent, something needs to give.

I’ve always wondered about the practice of giving up things for Lent. As a child, I would give up soda or potato chips and feel so proud when I resisted temptation for 40 days. However, now as an adult, I look at the practice a little differently than as a child.

While I have heard that we sacrifice so that we can relate to the sacrifice of Christ, I cannot find anything that I would give up for Lent that could ever cause me to understand what it would feel like to be sinless yet take on the weight and shame of every person’s sin on this earth. I cannot give up anything that would help me understand what Christ felt when the Father turned His back as He hung on the cross.

Honestly, I don’t think God intends for us to give up things merely for the purpose of sacrifice. Rather, I imagine He wants to draw us into a deeper relationship with Him. When He tells us to fast and pray for those who are sick, we are not fasting so that we will feel hunger and broken. Instead, we fast as a reminder.

I cannot go without one meal before I feel hunger pains. It is then that I am reminded of who sustains me. When I am tempted by a worthless potato chip, I am reminded of the weakness of my flesh. It is in those moments of weakness that should draw me to God in prayer, for if not, for what purpose did I practice sacrifice?

After prayer, I found what God wants me to give, and I heard Him loud and clear. He doesn’t want me to give up anything for the purpose of taking away my joy. Instead, He wants me to trust that His hands are overflowing with a greater abundance of joy than mine could ever hold, and I have to let go of some things in order to hold His. I cannot fall into routine when it comes to my faith; I have to not only find time but truly use this time to reflect on the goodness of God and the importance of my faith.

Everyone needs a little break from routine. Everyone needs a fresh start. This Lent I’m hoping to find a newness and exhilaration in my faith that will carry me from the first sound of the alarm in the morning to the last lunch I pack at night. And I pray that you find that newness, too.

Linking up with Michelle and Jen today. How do you observe Lent?

 

4 thoughts on “Lent: What to Give?

  1. This beautiful and truly full of hope. This Lent, I've given up desserts, but I am also supposed to working on cultivating those things which I think God really wants to grow in my heart — the ability to extend grace, to rest, to allow for restoration.

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  2. Mmmmm, I am liking your revelation, Jen. I had a similar one last Ash Wednesday when I listened to my pastor ask us to give up a sin for Lent. I thought about it for a bit, and decided distrust (or rather, lack of trust, I guess I should say) in God was the one I would concentrate on. It will be interesting to see what unfolds.

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    1. Well, you definitely tackled a tough sin, at least for me. I am such a planner, so I have to remind myself when I am no longer trusting God and trying to plan out my whole life without His direction.Last year I gave up a sin, too–complaining to Matt about how late he worked! If nothing else, I got in the habit of speaking less. 😉

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  3. Thank you for the compliment!Oh, wow; giving up desserts is so hard this time of year. I'm not even a dessert person, but I know I would still be tempted! I identify with your list, especially the 'rest' part. Trying to carve out true rest time feels like a losing battle many weeks. I pray that God will grow those needs in your heart.

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