Growing up, Ash Wednesday was a big deal. It meant no school – enough said. It also meant going to church for the Ash Wednesday conference – not my favorite activity as a child. It was a few years before I realized that it signified the beginning of Lent – a forty-day period (not counting Sundays) leading up to Easter. The forty days is supposed to represent the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin His ministry. As a Methodist then, Lent was a time of repentance and fasting, self-examination and reflection. It was a time to focus on my relationship with God, and traditionally, to choose something to give up for the season.
Having said all that, I was talking to one of my sisters about the ‘giving up something ’ aspect of it, and later it got me thinking. Here we go.
Does giving up something because you consider it to be interfering with your relationship with God, for approximately six weeks, with the full intention of resuming said interference after the period make sense? Does it actually improve your life beyond the mental pat on the back you’ll give yourself? (Yeah, I did it.) Wouldn’t it be a lot more effective to begin with the mindset that this will produce lasting and positive change? Wouldn’t that make it actually worthwhile? In His forty days in the wilderness, Jesus was preparing for something – His ministry. There was a point! He had a purpose! What’s yours? Give it some thought. Tradition isn’t a purpose. Think deeper. What are you giving up and WHY? Is it even a sacrifice for you? Is it a struggle for you, and is there a benefit? If the answer to either of these is ‘no’, it’s time to reevaluate. If it’s worthwhile to you to give up something you’d rather keep for 6 weeks, how much more worth would be ascribed to giving up it up fully? My opinion? Life should be a cycle of Lent-like propellers – decisions moving us forward in our life and spiritual journey: Reflect. Pinpoint. Begin moving with a view to real, lasting change. What say you?