So Lent is upon us, and in the spirit of the season I’m once again contemplating what I’ll give up for 40 days. My go-to each year is ice cream. Since I eat it almost every day, it really is a huge challenge for me and a big sacrifice. Re-reading that sentence, I realize how inane that sounds. Feel free to poke fun at what a difficult life I lead, but my guess is your life (and Lenten sacrifice) lies somewhere within the same range of “difficulty.”
When Lent rolled around a couple of years ago, my kids made a kind of critical comment about how I always give up ice cream. They said I needed to challenge myself more. They said that ice cream wasn’t enough. This, coming from three people who set a new Lenten sacrifice with each sunrise.
But, wanting to set a good example, that year I decided to give up ALL sweets. It was one of the hardest things I’d ever done. I was grumpy every day. I unintentionally lost weight (which is rarely a good thing for me). Most of the time I felt very resentful. But I did it. And when it was over I celebrated by gorging on cookies and handfuls of chocolate chips throughout the day, topped off with a heaping portion of mint chocolate chip ice cream covered in chocolate hard shell that night before going to bed.
This year though, I’m looking at it differently. Not necessarily as a sacrifice for 40 days that could have a spontaneous side effect of resentment, but as a commitment to something bigger. Something that I’ll, hopefully, carry with me long after Easter. I’m not going to stop doing something that is considered bad for me, and then celebrate my success by diving right back into it once Lent is over. I want to cultivate a new way of looking at things that will, with practice, become second-nature instead of a conscious decision.
So this Lent I’ve decided to let go, to stop wanting and stop comparing. I’m making a commitment to see things as they are and be grateful for what I have–every single day, all day long. I’ll still have aspirations and goals, but they won’t be because of envy or tied to anything materialistic.
Instead of giving thanks each morning for this body and the good health God has given me, and then, not even two hours later, wishing I had my friend’s flexibility as we practice hands to feet pose in Bikram yoga, I will give thanks to God for this body that allows me to move and stretch. Even if that means my knees are bent and my hips and hamstrings are screaming at me as I do the pose.
Instead of giving thanks each night for the home I have, but then wishing for a bigger one every morning before school as the kids fight over the single sink and toilet they have to share, I’ll take a couple of deep breaths and be thankful that they, at least, have one to share. And that I have three kids, each healthy enough to put up a good fight. More bathrooms would not necessarily guarantee before-school peace between the Evett boys. This will be my mantra.
In everything I do and everything I think, I’m going to let go of making comparisons between my life and anyone else’s. For 40 days. It’s a good start, I think.
I realize I should already be doing this everyday. I try, but I fail. Some days I’m very good about it, but it usually just comes in quick flashes rather than an ongoing practice. But this time, I’ll succeed.
Along with this practice of letting go, I’ve also decided to write each day of Lent. Whether it be here, on one of the other sites to which I contribute, or putting pen to paper in my journal the old fashioned way, I’ll write each day. Since writing is the first thing to get knocked off my list when life gets in the way, I’m hoping this will bring me a renewed sense of commitment and expanded purpose. Not wanting anything materialistic or envying anyone else’s talent. It’s just a simple goal.