Lent is now at hand, and so it the unavoidable question, “what are you giving up this year?” I have to admit that for years I never fully committed to giving anything up, unclear on the real purpose of self-denial not to mention previous multiple and almost immediate failed attempts. But this year brought new personal study on the season of Lent and therefore a renewed interest in understanding how self-denial can (when thoughtfully tried) lead to a fuller spiritual awareness. After all, Christianity is not the only religion which encourages various ‘denials of the flesh’ in order to achieve some deeper level of consciousness. But how to decide?
I was reminded that the best approach to this dilemma was prayer… listen to what the Spirit of God is calling you to reflect upon during Lent. I sat in silence for a few minutes and then said out loud, “Lord, what should I focus on this season?” Without hesitation, I heard that still-small voice in my head say, “… your anger.”
This was a bit unexpected for me. Not because I deny having some anger issues, but because I was thinking something simpler and more classic would come to mind, like no chocolate or alcohol. This was also sobering because to acknowledge anger-management issues is to acknowledge a lack of love, grace and mercy in yourself– definitely qualities I long for in abundance.
With a conscious Lenten discipline in mind I felt a little brighter and more focused. But, that very day after a stop at the grocery store on the way home I felt the heat rising and when I walked in the door at home I bellowed out, “you know what really ticks me off?!” to my unsuspecting partner, who was quietly clipping coupons. I immediately stopped and sheepishly said, “never mind…”
I had failed again… right out of the gate. I admit to feeling very let down by myself, but I had missed the point. These 40 days of wondering through our own wilderness isn’t meant to be a cakewalk! It’s challenging and frustrating but the very fact that I recognized my anger was a testament to power of these 40 days of self-reflection. We also must take care during this season to not sliding into judgmental finger-wagging over our own actions (or anyone else’s). Lent is not about condemnation of our failings but about the hope and joy that can be found through repentance—that unending grace we receive from a God who encourages us to turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel! So, during this season let yourself stumble and know that God’s love will carry you through, all the way to new life!