The Meaning of Lent
Today is Ash Wednesday where Christians all over the world enter a time of fasting in order to prepare for the Easter experience. When I was younger, my friends and I would get together and compare our chosen penances. We all gave up things like chocolate, ice cream, or beating up on our brothers and sisters. The goal was to pick something that we needed God’s help with in order to reframe from the behavior. Abstaining from something we loved also meant that we would suffer in some small way like Jesus suffered so we would better appreciate his sacrifice.
Today I have a completely different perspective on Lent. It is not a time to deprive myself of the pleasures of life. Jesus came so that we could live life abundantly. Rather it is a time to examine what true bounty is. I scan the landscape of my habits and become willing to see those that actually interfere with real pleasure rather than enhance it. It may be I give up TV not because I want to suffer like Jesus did but rather to learn what waits for me beyond the screen. I may give up ice cream in order to learn what my body really needs in order to function in a healthy whole manner.
Lent is a time to go deeper looking at my thought and feeling patterns along with my judgments and beliefs asking if and how they serve me.
Do they enhance or constrict life? It is a time to examine and release the paradigms that no longer serve me if they ever did. It is a time to consider the continuous cycle of death, resurrection and renewal. As we take the time to examine our habitual thought patterns we see that we can choose more life affirming alternatives. As we recognize our pattern of criticism, we begin to replace those thoughts with ones of appreciation and encouragement. It is also a time to deepen our understanding of Jesus’ teachings on love, wholeness and the Kingdom of Heaven.
What is one self defeating pattern you are willing to release during this time? They say it takes 40 days to change a habit. So for the next 40 days, together let’s change one negative thought pattern. For the next 40 days, I choose to fast from negative self talk about my body. Every time I find myself entertaining thoughts that suggest that I am anything less than God’s glorious creation I pledge here to shift those thoughts to ones of affirmation and appreciation. Will you join me? What will you fast from during the Lenten season in order to resurrect the life that is waiting for all of us?