When I began to consider a Lenten practice for this year my focus began to gravitate toward something I had heard about a few years ago. It was a 40 bags in 40 days…removing 40 bags of unused or unneeded items from your home to share with others in some way. And as my brain works in odd ways I began to see this a lightening Lent instead of the dark denial of Lent that we sometimes think of.
Every year as Lent approaches my family and I can usually be found trying to decide what to “give up” or deny ourselves for the next 40 days….And over the years, I must say that I have also found myself adding something like a prayer practice or a discipline and found that was meaningful too. But this year after a couple of years of hearing about the 40 bags in 40 days, I was not only intrigued but really inspired…it made me think about exactly what Lent meant to me…an opportunity to focus on welcoming the Light, the lightness that denial would accomplish. Many people give up some indulgence or thing they feel they are overly attached to for the sheer denial aspect…but what is the long-term benefit of this short-term denial. I know personally I gave up soda a few years ago and while I will now occasionally indulge in a soda, I am probably a bit healthier for not drinking it everyday. But what if we just give it up for 40days and then return to our previous ways…what was the true benefit. Just proving we can do something for 40 days? How are we changed? Was there a real change in our hearts, bodies and minds? What can we do to make true and meaningful change? And is it just about making a temporary denial or are we ready to truly deny our selves and lighten up? Or do we really want to “cause a transformation” in our lives? I am personally looking for real transformation this lent. I want this transformation, so that on Easter I can look back and see real change in my life. I can see my heart, my body and my soul changed to be more Christ-like and less like my self-centered and sinful self.
While typically Lent is seen as dark, I believe it only begins that way, as we travel through Lent each day we become lighter as we release the baggage of the past, the hold of our addictions in preparation for greeting our risen Lord. Imagine how much easier it will be “enter the kingdom of Heaven” without all the “stuff” we have been carrying around. How much easier it will be to “come follow Me” if we aren’t dragging around our addictions, our baggage and our need to feed our ego. What if we gave from what we have no longer need of to those who are in need of it, what if that jacket we haven’t worn for 3 years is what keeps someone from freezing to death one night, what if not buying that Starbucks gave us a few extra dollars to put into the collection plate and because of that our Priest was able to help a family keep their electricity on or pay their rent and keep a roof over their heads for one more month. What could denying myself mean to someone else? And if I relieved the cares or worries of another what an amazing gift of resurrection would that be for both of us. One definition of resurrection: the act of causing something that had ended or been forgotten or lost to exist again, to be used again, etc. Not only are we honoring the denial of Lent but we would also be moving toward the resurrection of Easter. Well how perfect is that??? I am reminded of Colonel Hannibal Smith of the “A-Team” …I love it when a plan comes together”. I am sure Jesus has to shake his head at my constant surprise of how relevant His teaching are still today. It is always an amazing thing to me to see how perfect the Christian teachings fit together, that our denial could lead to resurrection…that this is not just some ancient concept that does not apply to us today…the resurrection is alive and still happening today.
So this year I am not looking for the easy way through Lent, but I am looking for a true lightening up…and a personal experience of resurrection.
©Amber E Keithley 2014