Alert: This post is not to chide or correct or shame anyone. This has been on my heart for much longer than the beginning of this Lenten Season.
Social media often makes us keenly aware of people’s feelings and reactions. Sometimes I can set them aside and move on however the ongoing reaction to “giving up” startles me. There were lots of posts & comments “Instead of giving up I’m doing something positive for Lent”. And long with that there are the comments that “giving something up is so negative.”
This just rattled me deeply. I honestly do not understand why sacrifice and giving up are viewed as negative/bad things.
I wasn’t sure why and before I responded I needed to think about it, to ponder it.
I’ll start with this: Ash Wednesday turned out to be more than I’d hoped. I spent the day with a friend in the City planning a couple of quilts and having a great, very thoughtful conversation. I got home in time to go to Mass a little early and have some quite time. Lately I take out my sketch book and do my best to draw one of the windows – I know this sounds odd but as a quilter I find it fascinating and one day I hope to make a quilt based on this window. The sketch started out slightly differently – with a heart shape.
Over the next few minutes or so I thought/prayed and listened.
“rend your heart, not your garments”
“a humble and contrite heart you will not spurn”
How are we reconnecting with God through this sacrifice? How is the sacrifice changing us?
How does it translate to loving my neighbor?
And then “Lent is both the “negative” of sacrifice and the “positive” of giving/doing for others”. We can’t have one without it leading to the other.
Allow me to explain.
I mentioned that I give up grousing in the car for Lent. Okay. That’s good. Fine. Let me share what this has led to and why I keep going back to it and why I long to allow this to be a permanent “thing that I give up”. The first year I gave up grousing in the car it was very, very hard. And the next time I drive it will be very, very hard. (I can attest to this having driven back and for to work today) It will indeed be a sacrifice because added to giving up the grousing I add praying for the people who I perceive to be doing stupid things while driving. Some of them are for sure: talking on the phone, texting, waiting til the very last-minute to change lanes; the list goes on. To some degree it is thoughtless and puts other peoples lives in danger, causes traffic build ups and generally ticks people (like me) off. By making the sacrifice of stopping the grousing and taking the time to pray for those folks who cross my path there is a relational change. The person in that car is being prayed for, I am removing presumptive judgement of them and their actions, this goes further as the next person I encounter isn’t getting my annoyance, building into anger “tossed” at them.
When I heard that I thought, That’s it! That’s it! I have to die to this to live a new life in Christ. I have to make this sacrifice not only for myself but for the lives of those around me. Sacrifice and giving things up for Lent aren’t negative when that Sacrifice draws us closer to God and closer to all 6 billion of our neighbors, when Sacrifice calls us to patience and being loving. When we enter more deeply into the suffering of Christ who gave of himself so completely, Christ who is our sacrifice, Christ who shows us how to love by sacrificing his earthly life. This Lenten journey, this Lenten sacrifice should lead us closer to God and to our neighbor.
I get why people want to stress the positive. I do. But when we “do good for other people”, when we “give to charity” when we do these small things – we are indeed making sacrifices. It takes effort, it may take time or money or all of the above. These are sacrifices.
What do you have to die to in order to rise to new life with Christ?