Chocolate? Sodas? T.V.? What should I give up? Sharing with my newly 13 year old about Lent, these were the inevitable questions that were bound to come up. I knew that one day she would question why I give something up at this time every year and wonder whether she should do the same thing. I wanted to explain it in a way that would touch her heart and not leave her feeling as though this were just another trial to get through. But where to start?
I was born and raised a Presbyterian but attended an Episcopal school though the elementary years. This taught me about the dichotomy between religion and faith. I watched my classmates who attended the Episcopal church “give something up” every year in the weeks leading up to Easter. I heard them talk about how hard it was to not have a coke when everyone else was having one or how they had messed up and it wasn’t worth trying anymore. I remember thinking “why did you try if it wasn’t worth it?” To be honest, I thought that the whole idea was just stupid. I mean, what do cokes and how many you drink have to do with Jesus? Not a thing as far as my grade school self could see.
Fast forward a few years to the time when I was deciding what religion would serve my new family best. I wanted to raise my children in a church but I was left feeling as though something were lacking in all of the areas that I was seeking fulfillment. I chose Anglican to try out and it seemed like a good fit. A comfortable memory from childhood with real meaning. But then came Lent… and the concept of giving something up was staring me in the face once again. I looked past it for a few years, choosing to celebrate Resurrection Day without all the denial that came before. And I realized, the deeper I went into my Lord’s life and His sacrifice, that I was missing something crucial to the experience of Lent. By looking past the trials to the celebration I was not getting the full picture. I was fully embracing the worship portion of Easter without honoring Him with the surrender of something I was holding too dear.
I started with giving up meat on Fridays. A simple enough sacrifice. Until you actually try to live it out. It’s hard in Western culture. And there is the point. I give up something that I have to actually THINK about. Not something that doesn’t cause me any discomfort at all. I give something up so that in missing that particular thing, or in having to think a little harder in consuming a meal on that day, I recall the sacrifice made my Lord made for me. And it makes me think. A lot. About His death. About His love. About why I am choosing to do this to honor Him in my own very small way. My sacrifice doesn’t equal His. It could never come close. But it can help me remember in a way that I might miss without that reminder.
Every year, I now put much thought into what I might be choosing to sacrifice during Lent. Sometimes it’s very simple. Sometimes it is quite complicated. But it always reminds me of Jesus’ devotion to me. And in sharing with my children this year, the why’s became much clearer. It all comes down to a deeper relationship. I want to know Him more and this is one way I have chosen to do that. It may work for them or they may choose a completely different way to show that they understand His surrender. But He honors each heartfelt sacrifice. Big or small. Because our heartfelt sacrifices mean we are paying attention. And in the end that it truly all we have to offer Him.