I have no idea what our pastor said that caused my daughter a moment of panic in church last Sunday, but he obviously said something that triggered her concern. She looked stricken then leaned over and whispered, “When, exactly, does Lent start?”
I pointed to an announcement in the bulletin about Ash Wednesday services, and she breathed a sigh of relief. That afternoon, she asked me what she should give up for Lent. I told her that was a personal choice.
Days later, she announced she was giving up playing the game Flappy Bird. I must have sighed because she asked, “What’s wrong with that? I like Flappy Bird.”
She may like Flappy Bird, but I don’t think she’s making any great sacrifice by giving it up. She downloaded it on my phone, not hers. In other words, she only plays the game when her phone battery is running low and she is looking for something to do when we are out running errands.
My daughter’s decision reminds me of a student who lived in my dorm during college. I’d always considered the young woman superficial. My assessment of her proved right when she announced that for Lent she was “giving up eating junk food after getting drunk.”
She was missing the point of Lent, and I think my daughter might be too. She can certainly spout the reasons Christians give up something during Lent, but I’m not sure she has fully embraced the concept of spiritual growth.
Sometimes, I wonder if I have either.
That’s why I’m not giving anything up this year. Instead, I’m taking on something, and I already know it’s going to be much harder than giving up caffeine or chocolate.
I know it’s going to be challenging because I’ve been practicing. At least, I’ve been trying to practice, and I’ve been failing miserably.
I’m taking on praying daily for people I don’t like or who have hurt me. And the purpose of those prayers isn’t about my relationship with these individuals or my hopes that they will change their behavior. My prayers are simple: that they find peace and happiness. My emotions aren’t as simple. Letting go of anger is difficult and embracing forgiveness is tough.
As Lent begins this week, I hope I find the strength for both.