“What should I give up for Lent?” my nine-year-old recently asked me, quite out of the blue.
I was making dinner. He was eating an after-school snack. His older sister was paying attention (though pretending not to be).
“Well, it depends,” I answered. “You don’t want it to be something impossible. And it can’t be something that won’t be at least a little bit hard.”
I could feel my eyes roll in response to my answer.
Really? This is the best I have for him?
And yet, I couldn’t help but reflect that maybe the Spirit was at work in what felt like a simplistic reply.
How often do I approach Lent as a chance to become better? And how often, in that lofty approach, do I fail before I even begin?
Oh, don’t get me wrong: I’m not advocating slacking off. I am, however, advocating an honest approach.
Lately, it’s been on my heart that my season of life is very particular. It’s demanding of me physically and mentally. I have to be available to a lot of different people, able to make decisions on the fly, fold laundry in my sleep, and communicate seamlessly using all the technology (including my voice). There’s little room for error, even with all the mistakes I inevitably make, and a lot of grace that happens hourly.
And yet, I’ve also thought that maybe it’s easier now than it was ten years ago. The crazy now is far different. The time I spend, the effort I make, the requests I have: All of these (and much more) have adjusted to the needs of my growing family, my changing work, and my extended obligations.
Instead of a crew of sniveling and whining children, I have a gang of bigger people. Instead of yelling, I’m texting in all caps. (Judge away.)
And I see where this is headed, because I have friends who are a season or two ahead of me. The noise I have blaring constantly in my head is soon to be a duller roar, and then a buzz, and then … a symphony here or there, with long pauses between.
So, in my son’s simple question, there really is a simple answer. What can I give up? Something simple. Something small.
But let’s not forget, as our conversation continued, that fasting is only part of Lent: There’s also prayer and almsgiving to consider.
“When you give something up, the money you’d spend should go to help someone else. And you can also pray when you’re craving it,” I told him, thinking of the candy he had been naming off (making me drool a bit).
So often, I stop before I get far enough to really make a difference. In contemplating Lent, I give something up and really go gung-ho, but I fail to use that fasting as the open door to deepening my prayer and loosening my hold on my wallet.
The fact that #DrunkAmazoning* is a thing should be all I need to dive in on curbing my many appetites. Those appetites aren’t just for chocolate or coffee but include such other good things as books and conversations.
These 40 days ahead of us have turned into an opportunity for me, each year. And, if I’m honest, that opportunity is for a small step, not a huge improvement or change for the better.
I’d like to be transformed, converted. I’d like to be amazing and on fire and the best I can be.
But that only happens one bit at a time. Though I am a convert to Catholicism, the joke’s on everyone who thinks that’s neat, because my conversion has been ongoing for the entire time I’ve been in the Church. I’ll arrive when I become a saint, and the trip there is going to be messy and long and probably more painful than I’d like. (In this case, ignorance is bliss, so I’d like to not talk about the pain part.)
When the next conversation comes up about Lent, I don’t know exactly what I’ll tell whichever kid it is who asks. I’m going to try to lean into the Spirit on this. He has it under control, one small answer at a time.
(*Drunk Amazoning is when you shop on Amazon while you’re drunk, and then the package comes and you don’t remember ordering it.)
Copyright 2020 Sarah A. Reinhard