Every year for at least the last 15-ish years (give or take a year or two) I have given something up for Lent. Being a Lutheran, Lent is a season in our church that is celebrated (is that the right way to say it? Maybe we participate in Lent..we celebrate the end of it) every year, and each year many people give something up for this special season.
For those of you that don’t know, Lent is the 40 days that lead up to Easter, the celebration of the resurrection of our Lord.
As I got to thinking about what I wanted to give up this year, I went through my list of normal, logical choices to see which one seemed to fit. Some of my go-to Lenten “sacrifices” are:
- Meat (only did this a year or two, then my need for iron outweighed the sacrifice of meat so I wasn’t allowed to do that anymore)
- I think I gave up Tumblr one year, back when I was actually active on there
Usually my sacrifice ended up being some unhealthy thing in my diet, and sacrificing it on behalf of the Lenten season seemed like a reason that would get the healthy habit to stick. As I was thinking about this, I came to the conclusion that this was not the right approach at all. How does giving up chocolate for 40 days relate at all to my relationship with God and Jesus? How can my “sacrifice” of an over priced latte once or twice a week for a handful of weeks even begin to compare to the sacrifice that Jesus made for us that we are supposed to spend this Lenten season reflecting on??
That’s sort of the realization I had this year, and with that I decided that the thing or things I gave up had to be an emotional sacrifice. A spiritual sacrifice. Lent is about getting closer with God. Spending more time with him, feeling connected. Does my grande triple skinny vanilla latte put up a barrier between myself and my relationship with the Lord? No. Does my giving that up bring me any closer to Him? I’d like to think that the answer to that one is also no.
I made the decision that for Lent this year I am giving up the desires of trying to dictate how my husband chooses to spend his time, and complaining about it when I don’t like his decision. Based on our 2 months of marriage and the fact that we’ve only been living in the same place for 9 months, I like to highly encourage him to make sure we regularly get some decent time together that isn’t him talking MBA or Wall Street Journal. Now I don’t think that my desires for this regular quality time is unreasonable by any means, however, I tend to get upset when I don’t feel like he’s making the “right” choices for how to spend his time, and that kills my mood and then the tensions rise…you get the cycle.
So I decided that I’m giving it up. I should want him to make the decisions about spending time with me taking priority all on his own, right? For Lent, and hopefully this is the gateway to forever, I’m letting it go. Letting the Lord lead his heart and mind (and mine as well). This will also help me get better at forgiveness, understanding, self-control, loving unselfishly..all things that Jesus wants us to live out in our daily lives.
I want Lent to be about growing spiritually; about being a better person with a stronger, more caring heart and a deeper connection with our Savior, who during this Lenten time knew the sacrifice He would make at the end of it.
I came across this article on Tuesday that sort of confirmed that the way my mind was going was appropriate for Lent. “20 Things to Give Up for Lent” started listing things like guilt, excuses, pride, and worry as the things we should be giving up for Lent (and forever). Again, things that are true barriers in your relationship with God which make it difficult for you to trust him fully and love Him completely.
Now, I’m not saying that if you’re giving up cupcakes for Lent (that’s another one I did..just remembered) you’re copping out of the whole idea. Everyone’s journey is different and unique to them and their relationship with God and themselves. I would encourage you, my friends, to add another thing to the list of your sacrifice this Lenten season. Give up your chocolate AND give up the self-pity that might come with the body image you have of yourself that led you to sacrifice your favorite sweet to begin with. Give up Facebook as an addition to giving up gossip. Get the idea?
Whatever your sacrifice, I pray that you use this Lenten season to strengthen your bond with our Lord and to truly feel the spiritual wholeness that comes from understanding the ultimate sacrifice that He gave us. We celebrate His death, and more importantly, His resurrection. Thanks be to God!