Lent is the forty days ahead of Easter, and represents the forty days and nights that Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness. It is a time of cleansing, of purification, of renewal. To honor this time, many people "give up" things for Lent. When I was about 12, I decided that I would give up cookies, cake, and candy for these forty days. It seemed like a great idea until I realized my birthday was during Lent that year and well, it meant no cake for me.
The time Jesus spent in the wilderness was one where he faced temptation, he met Satan, and Jesus prevailed. There is an distinct link between Jesus' forty days and the forty years that the Jewish people wandered in Exile. In both cases, people wrangled with the big, hard issues. Little food, no shelter, fear, uncertainty. At the core of it, their faith was challenged. That's what Lent should be, wrangling with the tough questions and finding out something about yourself and your beliefs.
This year I've thought more about what I'd like to give up. Material things are just that, things. I can do without most of them, day to day. I wanted to give up something that would force me to think about my actions.What would happen if I decided, very purposefully, to give up letting myself get angry? What would this take?
Now, just to be clear here, I'm not an angry person by any standard. But I do let little petty things eat away at me. I get the urge to Yelp about bad service when I receive it. I find myself wishing that someone would "get what they deserve" from time to time. I know that we all do it. But what if, for forty days, I made an effort to consciously stop and think about my reactions, my thoughts, my feelings and make the choice to not get angry?
I'll see if I can do it, and I'll report back. I hope that I'll find that I'm living more joyfully, appreciating the good in people, and choosing act more often from a place of love.
What are you giving up for Lent?