Disclaimer: Today's post is about Lent, and therefore explicitly Christian, unlike many of my other devotional posts that strive for a sort of spiritual inclusivity. I know that many of my readers follow other faiths or no faith at all. It is not my wish to clobber anyone over the head with my religion, so feel free to skip today's post if you want.
Years ago, I heard a church member bitterly remark that no one gives stuff up for Lent anymore. Lent and Easter, she thought, ought to be a Christian's favorite season on the Church calendar, but people get sucked into the commercial celebration of Christmas and ignore Easter, except for the candy and bunny and eggs (which are all pagan anyway, harrumph).
Her point, I think, is that Christ's death and resurrection opened heaven for us, and we are ungrateful wretches about it. The least we can do to acknowledge that enormous debt is give up chocolate for Lent.
As I study the Bible, I am struck by Jesus' repeated and firm insistence on the importance of inward state of being rather than outward show. Think of the parable of the widow's mite. God values a small gift given out of love higher than a big gift given to impress.
Some people, like the bitter church member, judge other people's inward state of heart by looking at their outward public actions. That judgment involves a pretty big assumption. How many serial killers have neighbors who say, "I'm shocked. He was so nice and quiet and grew beautiful orchids!"
Instead, let's flip the assumption around: our inward state of heart should dictate our actions. What we do for Lent should rise up from inside us, from that place that houses our values and faith.
And because we're all different, our actions will be different.
Instead of worrying about following rules this Lent, rethink Lenten sacrifice. Try doing something personally meaningful to celebrate the life and resurrection of Jesus. The outward show of sacrifice isn't what's important. What's important is the inward focus on your relationship with God.
For some of you, it will indeed be giving up something, sacrificing a luxury or treat to remind you daily of another, much bigger, sacrifice. If you are one of the many people who benefit spiritually from Lenten sacrifice, that's wonderful. Stick with it.
I, on the other hand, like the idea of adding something. I preach and whine about busyness, but that makes me all the more certain that keeping my inward eye on God involves refocusing that outward busyness. Adding something to my schedule, something that feels worshipful, makes sense to me. That's why I've started a daily devotional and recommitted myself to sending more cards to people.
When I asked Nick about this, he took it in a different direction entirely and without hesitation decided to strive to be more cheerful even when he doesn't feel like it. That's pretty cool, don't you think?
What's your widow's mite? How will you honor Lent? While telling the world in a blog comment might feel contradictory to the message of inward focus, I do think others benefit from shared ideas. Your idea might spark something meaningful in someone on the other side of the world, so please share.