As Ash Wednesday comes to an end, I realize that I have not yet decided what to “give up” for Lent. Each year we were encouraged by priests, teachers or parents to “give up” something for Lent in commemoration of the 40 days and 40 nights that Jesus spent in the desert, being tormented by the devil. As kids we were taught that we needed to sacrifice something that we liked, – candy, soda, chocolates, a TV show or some other habit – and “give it up” for Lent. This was a form of discipline, a way to derail temptation and to delay gratification. As an adult I have stayed with the habit, often giving up meat or alcohol or some other thing that brings me pleasure.
This year I am not so sure. When I look at my life I am reluctant to give up anything. I am disciplined, so giving up anything for 40 days is not going to make me anymore disciplined. The idea of delaying gratification no longer seems a valid argument – life is short and I am not promised a tomorrow. I want to retain the moments of pleasure in my life – with my rigorous schedule and new challenges that I face I will need these to keep me afloat.
As I ponder about the words give up, and note my reactions to them, a thought emerges. Perhaps “giving up” for Lent is not the obvious call for removal of the tangible, pleasurable things in my life. Maybe for me giving up is about surrendering, throwing my hands in the air, open to the moments and ready to embrace whatever may come my way. Maybe I need to give up my need for control and just be in the magical moments that life offers on a daily basis and be present to experience them. Maybe I need to give up and shrug my shoulders just a bit more and not try to be a superhero. Maybe I need to give up my need to know everything and stay in the dark with my curiosity. Maybe I need to give up praises and thanks on a daily basis so that I can experience deep gratitude and abundance.
I know now what I am giving up for my 40 days and 40 nights of Lenten practice. Hopefully after 40 days I will have a new outlook on life.
What are you giving up for Lent?