“So, what are you giving up for Lent?”
“Kid you not. Ever eat a plain bagel? The defense rests. What about you–what are you giving up for Lent?”
“Whoa–that’s some hi-test, right there.” He lightly smacked his friend on the shoulder as they walked off, their self-congratulatory banter dopplering and bouncing off the wall of The Coffee Loft they’d just left.
Interesting question: “What are you giving up for Lent?”
I heard it in all sorts of conversations beginning Ash Wednesday, a few even before. Some serious, some mildly curious, some lighthearted–and a few flat making fun of the entire thing. Nothing new there.
As we’re working our way through these days of the Lenten season, can I mess with your thinking a little?
Why are you giving up anything for Lent? That’s 40 days of deprivation. Consciously pushing something you enjoy temporarily away. Right? Doing without something that normally you can’t see yourself not doing, being or having?
It’s all right there in the way we ask the question.
“What are you giving up . . . ?”
Consider the implications of using that phrase. Doesn’t it carry within itself the compelling attitude of relieved license, once Easter has come and gone?
“Yuh. I participated in Lent. Ashes and everything. Sure, I did. You think I don’t have an appreciation for who Jesus is and what he did back there? Wouldn’t think of not being involved. Can’t wait for Easter, though. I tell ya, Monday mornin’ it’s cream-cheese and Sudoku city, peepul! Got another Lent under our belts, we did. Pass them bagels. No-no…not th— yeah, the cinnamon ones. There ya go!”
Hyperbole, admittedly. Let me make my point before you decide to give me up for Lent.
How do you suppose it might alter our thinking about the season itself, about our involvement in its events, if instead of seeing that involvement as giving up something, we consider it a process of spending those 40 days investing ourselves, our thinking, our lives in an unordinary way?
After all, isn’t that what Christ did for you and I?
God through Christ actively invested Himself in you. In me. In our world. Then in His teaching Jesus simply said, “Go and do the same thing I’ve been doing.”
It removes the transient sense, the temporariness of thoughts about Lent. It also removes the heightening anticipation that once Lent is done for the year, the big rock we’ve oh-so-briefly pried up out of it’s resting place can be allowed to roll right back where it was so we can focus on Mother’s Day.
Investing myself instead of giving up something is forward-looking, positive. Where giving up cream cheese on my bagels is passive in nature, investing myself in some fresh, different ways is proactive. It does not focus on “what I can get back to”, but rather looks ahead, thinking, “Maybe this is something I can keep doing to better myself or others.”
Semantics? Perhaps. Yet all great tasks were first thoughts, right? It is in changing the way we think that we change the way we grow.
It’s how we invite others to do the same.
New question, then . . .
“How are you investing yourself over Lent?”
Lent is not about our holy acts. It is about the love and mercy invested in us by our Holy God. It’s about you and I letting His Light shine through us as we, in turn, find creative ways to invest ourselves in our world.
© D. Dean Boone, March 2015