Saturday, February 13, 2010

Lent? I Give Up!

Ash Wednesday is February 17—just a few days away. Christians of many denominations take a spiritual journey for Lent. That journey often involves some sort of deprivation, one’s personal forty days in the wilderness, spent in hope, faith, and even longing.

“Epic fail” best describes my attempts at “giving up” something for Lent. I was vegan for several years in the 1980s, so I thought giving up dairy would be easy. Dairy wasn’t the problem; it was coffee. Nondairy creamers gave me stomach distress and there was no way I was giving up coffee. Fail. Dark chocolate has so many physical and emotional benefits that it would be unhealthy for me to give that up. I haven’t even tried.

One year I gave up anger. Daily, I studied Proverbs such as 29:8 “… but wise men turn away anger,” and 11: “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” That experiment lasted about three weeks and when it ended, my outburst made Mount St. Helens look like a kitchen experiment with vinegar and baking soda. Fail. It’s best for my particular psyche (and my family and my remaining friends) to release a tiny bit of anger at a time.

I tried spiritual walks and promised to read Dark Night of the Soul every day. My inconsistent nature foiled that. Fail again.

So here I am, a few short days away from Ash Wednesday. I want to take a spiritual walk. And I feel like it has to be concrete, tangible, something I can measure, such as: “Gee, I avoided Wal-Mart for six weeks even though it always has the best selection and prices on Easter candy.”

What about dairy-free Fridays? It’s easier now because I found soy milk that doesn’t curdle into chunks in my coffee.

But really—is all that giving up the point of a spiritual walk? A spiritual walk should not be limited to six weeks in the spring. And does it change my walk with God if I don’t eat chocolate or meat or dairy products? Does it change my walk if I miss a day of spiritual study and reflection? Yes, I know Lent is about personal sacrifice. However, is giving up something like chocolate a sacrifice if come Easter morning, I gorge myself on Cadbury cream eggs (and chocolate-marshmallow bunnies and Lindt truffles)?

I believe Lent deserves a different look. Maybe it should not be a time we “give up.” Maybe “taking up” would be better… taking up a kinder, more prayerful life and focusing on what Jesus really wants from us—to love each other. Now that is a much more difficult walk—during Lent and everyday—but it’s the path I want to take.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Chris. Great article. Made me contemplate the aspects of giving up (vs taking up) and it occurred to me, maybe the lesson to be learned from repeated failures racked up from our own self-efforts is that, apart from an alliance with the Holy Spirit, Man(kind) is incapable of anything else. So the sacrifice becomes, not so much the outer material things but those inner attractions and entitlements we have subtly convinced ourselves we've earned or deserved. God has been showing me over the years that humility, the place of entire dependence on God, is the first duty and highest virtue of man (or woman). One of my favorite authors, Andrew Murry, says we seek a humility which gives up all the honor of men as Jesus did, to seek the honor of God. Now there's a sacrifice that will make you squirm, right?? Anyway, I enjoyed your blog. Glad someone was paying good attention in English classes.