I saw someone this morning who I haven't seen in a while. Their greeting to me was, "So, I hear you're giving up." Fortunately, I have become adept at dealing with strange reactions to the changes that lie ahead (a topic for another day) and answered, I hope, without expressing my frustration.
Shortly after, I got in my car and began the three hour journey to Perth. This is always a good space for reflection and, occasionally, for some creative planning. I came around to pondering the Lenten Reflections that I have promised my congregations. At this point, they were still a page full of scribbles and vague ideas. I knew the theme I wanted to take, but nothing had crystallized. I wondered about the assumptions people make about Lent and the traditions that people bring to this season. It is often perceived as a gloomy time of repentance and reflection and I have met people who don't attend church and say they are not religious who see it as a time to go without; giving up chocolate or coffee or alcohol.
I gave up giving up something years ago now. I only ever noticed a change for the worse in myself. Giving up chocolate made me cranky. For a few years, I tried taking up something positive. One year, I committed to a Bible reading plan throughout Lent. Other years, I have taken up a new spiritual practice or recommitted to one that I had let slip aside. For me, Lent should be a time of reconnecting with God, remembering who we are and whose we are. It should be a time to rediscover life in all its fullness and really come alive as we approach Easter when this is exactly what we celebrate. That is what I want my Lenten Reflections to be about.
"So, I hear you're giving up." Well, in some ways, I guess I am. I'm giving up on the false self. I'm giving up on obligation. I'm giving up on fear. I'm giving up on perfection. I'm giving up control. I'm giving up on the distractions I create. I'm giving up, in order to find life in all its fullness. I may see it a little differently from you. It is not in defeat, but in a crazy, irrational leap of faith. But thank you all the same for giving me some tangible headings for my Lenten Reflections. Very much appreciated!