“What are you giving up for Lent this year?”, a friend at work asked last week. Hmm. This Lent thing is still kind of new to me. Having grown up in the Baptist church where Lent was considered, slightly, ahem, Catholic, I never really practiced it. But now that I attend the Methodist church I’ve studied and contemplated about Lent and found that I love the idea of focusing on Spiritual growth during these weeks leading up to Easter.
But I really don’t want to give anything up.
I’ve tried. A few years ago I picked up a bookmark at church on ideas for Lent based on the Methodist founder, John Wesley. He was a very devout man who fasted for breakfast and lunch every Friday for his spiritual growth throughout his life. I decided if Wesley could do it, so could I, at least during the 6 weeks of Lent. Instead I found that missing breakfast and lunch one day a week made me particularly unChristian!
The idea was that I was supposed to spend the time that I would have been eating lunch in prayer in a private place. Anyone who works in a school knows there is no such thing as a private place, although we started calling the back storage room in my media center the prayer closet – as in, “I think you had better go spend some time in the prayer closet” whenever some of us started feeling huffy. Somehow I thought I would have some great spiritual breakthroughs by forgoing food for half a day, but all I got was a headache.
Another year I read about doing something positive during Lent, so I resolved to write 40 notes to people, one for each day. I started out pretty well, writing sympathy and birthday cards, but eventually got behind and fizzled out. Another Lenten failure.
I have friends who give up sweets and wine and cursing. I don’t want to do any of those. So my Lenten guilt increases.
This year I’m trying something different – I’m giving up a bad habit. I have several to choose from, but one that really needs to change is saying bad things about people. Like an alcoholic with a bottle of Jim Beam, I had recently had a wonderful time extolling all the shortcomings of an old acquaintance. The next day this same woman sent me a very sweet note for my birthday. I felt about 6 inches tall and wondered how she would have felt if she had heard me lambasting her.
I’m not sure what is so fun about dragging someone else through the dirt. I think it has to do with feeling better about ourselves by putting someone else down. And what I’m seeing more and more in my old age is that we are all just doing our best. The person who is short tempered and snappy may feel overwhelmed by his or her job. The person who seems dull and unenthusiastic may be battling depression. We never know what is going on in another’s life. Everyone has their daily problems that have to be overcome, whether it is physical, financial, emotional or spiritual.
So I’m giving up talking badly about other people for Lent. I’ve already had to bite my tongue and not say something nasty a time or two. I’m praying that God will show me compassion for the people that irritate me. Maybe He will show me ways that I irritate others (surely not!)
This is the wallpaper I’ve put on my phone for Lent, from Colossians 4:6, to remind me:
I love thinking of everything that comes out of my mouth as being graceful and seasoned with salt, which means it has a pleasing flavor. We have too much bitterness in the world already.
This year Lent is especially meaningful to me because I’ve spent the last few weeks getting together and editing a devotional book for my church. These are daily devotionals written by church members about the scriptures our ministers will be preaching on during the Lenten season. This has been such a blessing to me as I’ve had the opportunity to read and share the stories and insights of these great Christian friends. If you are interested in receiving these as a daily email, you can follow us here: