Most think of Lent as time to give up something. Chocolate. Coffee. Twitter. Swearing.
We don’t give up things easily. Most losses in life are losses we didn’t volunteer for. The loss of health. The loss of a job. A home. Our youthful good looks and energy. Faced with the threat of loss, we dig in and fight. We naturally hang on to any scrap of the past we can retain.
Recently, I gave up my claim to perfect health. I used to race through the form you fill out for a new doctor. You know that 3-page form where they list all the maladies a person can possibly have and you check off yours? I used to race through that form. Asthma? No. Cancer? No. Heart disease? I didn’t even read the choices. I just checked “No” for everything. No longer.
I gave up my claim to perfect health. I gave up an illusion. While I was checking “No,” I didn’t know plaque was building up and clogging one of my arteries. (Read “My Halloween Scare”)
It’s the loss that keeps on losing. Kaiser is big on education and they’re educating me on heart health. They want me to give up my apple fritters. Potato chips. Red meat. They also want me to fork over several thousand dollars for the little stent they put into my artery.
They say it’s not about what I’m losing, but what I’m gaining. Clear arteries. The ability to work all day without having to lay down and rest periodically. A longer life.
What are you giving up for Lent?
I think that’s not the right question. It’s not wrong, it’s just not the main question. The operative question for Lent is what do you want to gain?
The prophet Isaiah speaks for Yahweh God when he says it’s not fasting from food that delights God as much as feeding the hungry. It’s not the food that is given up, but the food that is given.
“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
You may give up food, money, privacy, housing, but you will gain healing. Your light will break forth like the dawn!
So what do you want to gain during Lent?
Freedom? Joy? Life to the full?
Losses will be involved to be sure, but it’s better to focus on the prize.
You give up that TV reality show so you can gain the hilarity of real-life family and friends.
You give up cigarettes so you can enjoy breathing.
You give up an abusive relationship to gain dignity, peace and a chance at healthy relationships.
You give up promiscuity to gain one real-life love relationship.
You give up an addiction to drugs so you can gain the joyful experience of life’s simple pleasures.
You give up some time each morning, so you can gain the peace that comes from Bible reading, meditation and prayer.
You give up pride to reconcile with a former friend.
I’ll give up apple fritters and more to gain a little more time with those I love.
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
During this season of Lent, we encourage you to give some time each day to read from a devotional guides which we’ll all be using. Read the Bible reading for the day. Read out loud the prayer.
It may be that the time you’re giving up in order to embrace this 40 day practice is time devoted to a good thing, like sleep. Laundry. A coffee stop on the way to school or work.
But, give the time and you will gain a new perspective. You’ll see a new and different community. A new and different you. Do it for 40 days and you may gain a new life-giving habit.
Meditation by Dave Weidlich, given at Ash Wednesday service, March 5, 2014
Join us for worship during Lent in Petaluma – Sundays at 10 am.