Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday and "giving up stuff"

I grew up in a Roman Catholic home -- Catholic school for 1st and 2nd grade, first communion, confirmation all that fun religious stuff. One of the favorite things to talk about as we headed toward Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent was "what are you giving up for Lent". I suspect this was the over simplified response of over indulged people to a season of fasting and penitence/repentance. Fasting is going without something allowed (like giving up food or sex or a favorite activity for a season) to focus on God. As school kids we talked about giving up chocolate or Coke or some indulgence that we could well do without and, honestly, wasn't really much of a sacrifice. I wanted to give up broccoli and Brussels sprouts one year (definitely NOT a sacrifice).
Later in life, as I read what some of the Saints of Old understood about fasting I was astonished at how pale and paltry our childhood efforts were (then again, we were just kids). Many of the old ones would go without meat six days a week in the season of Lent. Many of them fasted entire days and even weeks during this time period. Many of them abstained from all manner of allowable activities as a sacrifice to God and a reminder of their mortality and to help them focus on the deeper spiritual matters at hand.
So, here I am in Lent, once again. It is Ash Wednesday. What am I willing to give up that will profoundly change me. One colleague of mine suggested giving up "negative thoughts and comments about self and others (thanks Rebecca)" -- that could be a serious sacrifice for some. Maybe I should give up my passive "watching" -- Internet, TV, movies -- for a season in order to more fully engage with others in mission and ministry. Maybe I should fast from food for a day or two (or a day a week) and give the money I saved to Haiti relief. Maybe I should fast from eating out for the season and give the money saved to someone who needs it more than I.
I don't want to just "give something up" I want to surrender myself, be remade, re-formed and reshaped into the kind of person God has uniquely created and called me to be. . .
. . . more as we move forward!
dr bj

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