I was raised Southern Baptist, a preacher’s kid of a preacher’s kid. To us, Lent was not something we practiced, I don’t recall really knowing about it until High School. Now that I’m more of a Presbyterian and attempting to follow the Liturgical calendar, I’m aware of Lent, but haven’t really practiced “giving up” something as many good Catholics do, such as meat, sugar, alcohol, or caffeine.
What Lent has meant to me this year, and what I want to share, is that my mindset has changed around it. I read a quote the aligned perfectly with what I’m trying to live each day, and everything seemed to fall in to place.
Lent is a time of letting go of lesser things so that we can make room for the greater things of the gospel
I read the quote a couple of days before my Ignite talk, the topic of which was setting priorities. I realized that’s what we’re talking about in our lives. We are setting an intention greater than ourselves, a calling we hear or a muse we follow.
Social media, email, cleaning the house, buying things for ourselves, dozens of side projects, none of them are bad at all! I know I’ve been hard myself for spending too much time on facebook or twitter, and you may feel the same. But they are LESSER things! My wife likes to joke that she knows I’m avoiding writing when I’m cleaning instead.
I can’t quite tell you how much I’ve taken from that short quote. To stop being hard on myself for missing the point or not doing enough. It’s more freeing to realize that what you may be doing is simply of lesser importance than what you really care about. And don’t we want to spend our lives acting on and listening to what is important? Of course!
Our challenge in setting priorities and acting on them is to decide what are the greater things (and they are not many). Too many “great things” water down the claim, and we find ourselves just as over-committed and stretched for time as before.
Keeping an eye on what’s greater has far reaching implications, but it makes saying no to lesser things a little easier. Putting back the ice cream because you’ve given up sugar, not watching a tv show because you’ve chosen to write, or eating in because you’re saving to go to Europe, all things apply. When we frame our present choice with the big picture of greatness, the choice becomes a little easier, and the resistance has been exposed.
Take some time this week and think about what is of great importance to you. The greater things may include writing, podcasting, running, time with family, starting a business, or any thousands of passions. Once you decide what they are, make room for greatness. It’s knocking on your door.
Oh yes, my practice for Lent? I’m giving up buying non-essential items for myself. No clothes, electronics, music, books, gear, NOTHING. The practice has been difficult already, because I’ve realized how inundated I’ve become with sales pitches! The temptation to not miss a deal, feel like I “need” something, is very strong. Little things just as tough, because I think it won’t make a difference. So far, so good though. I know Joshua over at the Minimalists tried ot do this for a whole year, which is awesome! He failed, sort of… read his story here. Have you given up anything for Lent? I would love to hear about it in the comments so we can keep up with each other!
Spiritual context: The season of Lent lasts roughly 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday, and follows the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness following his baptism. By giving up a regular part of our daily habits, we are attempting to follow Jesus in to the wilderness, shedding what is non-essential to make room for what it important. The pangs we feel to satisfy our cravings for the habit shed light on ways that we are attempting to fill ourselves with lesser things of the world rather than the good news of the gospel and Jesus’ love for us. Whether you believe this or not, it’s still a good practice and worthy of your time and attention.