My Dear One,
I’m giving up. It’s too much. I’m tired of living this way.
It gets in my way every day, consumes my thoughts, eats my lunch, and keeps me from allowing myself to relax and experience more joy. It’s time to give up on It. Besides, Jesus told me to.
The Christian season of Lent is upon us, calling us to once more take stock of our lives. Why am I living the way I’m living? What’s getting in the way of my relationship with God, others, and myself? What should I “give up” for Lent?
Lent (from a root word that simply means “spring”), is at its heart a recognition that a new season has begun (or is about to begin) in the world. It is a new season in the Christian church calendar to prepare our hearts for observance of Holy Week and Easter.
It is also a time for us to begin a new season in our own lives, if we choose to accept the call.
And that’s where the importance of “giving up” comes into play. Because too often we think that the way to move forward is to “take on more” - more commitments, more “spiritual practices,” more guilt for not doing these things because we are too damned busy already.
But Lent is traditionally a time to give something up. And I don’t know about you but getting something off my plate seems a lot kinder and saner than trying to add yet another thing.
What then shall we give up?
It is ok to give up something like chocolate if we then allow our hunger and desire for chocolate to serve as a wake up call that we should be all the more hungry for an experience of God (though some might argue they are both divine!). Giving up something as a form of sacrifice can also be a holy endeavor, giving up one meal a week or a trip to Starbucks and donating what we would have spent to feed others, etc.
But this year I’ve decided to give up something that will really challenge me and, if I’m able to stick with it, also has the power to transform the way I’m living my life.
I’m going to try to give up worrying.
Worrying? Is that even possible? Does that “count” as something for Lent? I don’t know but I’m pretty sure it will help me grow in my faith. And Jesus said we should:
22 Jesus said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29 And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. 30 For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
As I reflect back on this past year, I’m troubled by the ways I allowed anxiety and worry to infect my life. I pushed back against it at times. I took some bold steps in moving deeper into my call to spiritual direction and online faith formation. I dove head first into a couple of places without any assurance that I could swim and did not panic when I feared I might drown. Well, I panicked a couple of times, but then I stopped, relaxed and reminded myself I knew how to float. I turned some hardship into an opportunity to embrace a period of living a much simpler life. And still I find that too often I allow my mind to run away with the worst case scenario.
Do not be afraid, the Bible says again and again. It is often the first thing angels, the messengers of God, say when they speak to humans. It is clearly the most immediate and urgent message God thinks we need to hear. God looks at the way we allow worry, anxiety and fear to overcome our lives and wants us to know it doesn’t have to be this way.
This Lenten season, I’m experimenting with living as if that is actually true.
6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6
Still looking for a practice to take on? Sometimes that is what we are called to do, I know. If that’s where you are, let me share some things that help keep me centered on The Way. I receive a reflections from a few daily or weekly sources. (I’m honored to be one of your sources!) Each of them helps me live my life in a more faithful and authentic way according to the Four Essential Truths:
Heart (vocational): I receive Inward/Outward from Church of the Saviour which has a daily quote from someone about how we are to live. http://inwardoutward.org
Soul (relational): I receive the Enneagram Institute’s Enneathought of the Day that helps call me on my stuff and gives me a daily practice to ground me in a healthier version of my self. https://subscriptions.enneagraminstitute.com/subscribers/create (And if you don’t know your Enneagram number, take the Rheti first, well worth your $12 https://tests.enneagraminstitute.com/orders/create)
Mind (intellectual): I receive Richard Rohr’s daily meditation which helps me think in more expansive and hopefully enlightened ways about what it means to believe in God and follow The Way. https://cac.org/category/daily-meditations/
Strength (incarnational): I listen to the Pray As You Go app on my phone for a morning devotion with beautiful music and time spent grounding myself in scripture. https://pray-as-you-go.org
Today’s reflection from Inward/Outward helped me with my giving up:
Walk around feeling like a leaf.
Know you could tumble any second.
Then decide what to do with your time.
-John O’Donohue, Walking in Wonder
In closing, I will share this poem I wrote today as I reflected on all of this:
A Poem for Ash Wednesday
I close my eyes and receive
upon my head.
Marked for death I stand
before the altar of life
Who I am not,
who I once wasn’t,
who I may yet be.
But all you do
is accept who I am
right now before you.
This bunch of dust
alive only because you have breathed
You remind me to live
with joy as long as I have
I came from dust.
I will return to dust.
This I know.
But in the meantime
I will live.
Let us truly live this season of Lent and go together following The Way,