I haven’t really decided if I am going to participate in Lent this year or not.
Last year I did and it was an amazing experience. It made me really focus and think about the Easter season more than just on celebration Sunday. It was a rare opportunity to sacrifice something very small (chocolate) in rememberance of what Christ did for me. Every time I craved chocolate it made me stop and think about why I was doing it. As a result I was thinking about God a whole lot more than I usually do, sad to say.
I think a goal of Lent is for us to be more actively aware of God and where he is in our lives. It is a discipline of noticing, stopping to think about Christ and what he means as we go about our normal day. One of my professors said that he had a friend that set an alarm on his watch to beep every hour to remind him to stop and meditate on God for a second or two. He did this for a couple of days I think, minus sleeping hours of course. But he said that he noticed a subtle shift in his orientation and thought process. Think about it, our character is determined by our thoughts. It reflects the core of who we are. What do I usually think about? I don’t think I’d be willing to write out a list of things.
When we get the chance to identify with Christ and participate in something he did, it is an amazing experience, if it’s more than just ritual. Growing up none when I was with my dad’s family we didn’t meat on Friday during lent, but it didn’t mean anything. I didn’t know why. It just meant that we switched to something else. Lent isn’t about self-improvement or self-denial for the sake of it.
Perhaps as humans we are most motivated by the painful, so deprivation is the key to making it meaningful.
In Lent, it’s traditional to give upsomething(s) that we do a lot of and that we find pleasure in. This ‘giving up’ is done :
as a discipline for learning self-control, to free our minds from the chase after material things,
- as a reminder of Christ’s sufferings and what our true pleasures are as followers of Christ,
- as an act of sorrow over our sin.Sometimes we don’t notice how certain things we do have gained power over us and dictate our actions. In Lent, we discover these things and give them up so that God can be in charge. Franciscans use the term ‘detachment’ : the less that ‘stuff’ preoccupies your life, the more room there is for God.
Hmmm what is that for me? What would really get my attention – giving up pasta, mexican food, television …