Every year just before Ash Wednesday for the past several years I have undergone a ritual. It includes lamenting over what I should give up for Lent. No, the church I attend does not practice abstaining from something during the Lenten season but we decided as a family that it is a good way to keep Christ’s sacrifice front and center as we approach Easter. The idea sounds really good on paper but when it comes down to what to give up, it is always a different matter. But this year, unfortunately for me, I decided to just pray about what to give up. Really unfortunately, God answered.
The process behind what to give up for Lent is always the same. I think about the three hardest things I could imagine forgoing (i.e. coffee, sweets, coffee). I then toil, rationalize and think about how realistic it would be for the next 40 days to give one of those things up. Finally, after much mental energy God brings me back to what Lent really should be about. The point of Lent is not to suffer for the point of suffering. The point of Lent is not to give up something easy or to give up the hardest thing I can imagine giving up. The point should be that I want to give up something because I want to have a daily reminder that Jesus’ death cost something. It isn’t like I don’t know that but unconsciously, I take it for granted. Unconsciously, I go on with life rarely giving that any real, serious or sustained meaningful thought. And that is the point of Lent. To become conscious. To intentionally become aware for just 40 days of what being a Christian cost Jesus so that by Easter I am able to have a greater and renewed appreciation that Jesus DIED for me. Not because I have to, but because I want to. So how, this fine Fat Tuesday, did God answer my prayer about what to give up for Lent? He called me to give up that which I would have never thought of on my own and that which is most valuable to me.
No, he didn’t ask me to sell my children. My most precious commodity (besides people of course) is time. I never have enough of it, I can’t buy more at Target and I hate wasting it. I live with very little margin in general and in particular for the next forty days. But after praying about what to give up it was clear to me that God wanted me to give up control of my time. What I am to “give up” over Lent is time to journal/blog every day. Ugh. Every day? But God, first of all, that isn’t giving up something as much as it is adding something. Secondly, I don’t want to journal every day. Thirdly, God, have you looked at my calendar for the next six weeks? Lastly, can I please just give up coffee instead? One day I will learn to think very hard before I pray about things I really don’t want to hear His answer to.
“Dear God, I know I should be thankful that you answered my prayer and told me clearly what to give up for Lent but I’m really not. Nonetheless, help me to trust you with the time I will forgo and help me most of all to remember that you did not particularly feel like going to the cross for me (and yes, it does sound really petty to complain about journaling once a day when I put it that way). Thank you for this opportunity to keep you front and center every day for the next 40 days. Help me to do each day without complaining, with thanksgiving and with my eyes wide open to see and hear from you as I prepare for the Easter season. And thank you for letting me keep the coffee (I’m going to need it). Amen.”