What do you want to give up and why?
Have you ever experienced times in your life when things were not going right, where you couldn’t get a break and that you felt like everything was starting to completely unravel? Those can be very scary moments which can last into months, maybe even years.
When we think we are King or Queen of the hill and that everything is smooth sailing; it can be a rude awakening when as W.B Yeats observed:
“Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, / The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere / The ceremony of innocence is drowned; / The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.”
WB Yeats wrote the poem “The Second Coming” right after World War I. Millions of people had been killed. Whether the poem means that humanity has lost its way or never knew it to begin with is unclear, but either way the promises of modern society — of safety, security, and human dignity — have proven empty.
That sense of emptiness can be acutely felt by anyone who is going through a crisis be it a medical problem, a divorce, problems with a job or concerns about a relationship or a family member. All of these examples can remind us that life is fragile, that there are no guarantees, even though we want to believe that guarantees do exist.
We will be starting the season of Lent, reflecting on the life and ministry of Jesus. We will be eagerly embracing the lengthening of the days, the presence of warmer weather, more light, more green grass and the emergence of Spring flowers.
Traditionally, some church communities have encouraged people to give things up for Lent; i.e. Chocolate, Alcohol, Lattes. The idea behind this has been if you sacrifice something that you value, then the celebration of Easter can become more meaningful, that a real resurrection can be known in peoples’ lives.
I remember as a child walking into big church sanctuaries and seeing all of the statues of the saints draped in purple cloth covering these objects of devotion. Even some people I knew back then would cover the mirrors in their houses.
I’m wondering if Lent can be appreciated in a different way.
What would happen if people changed the focus of what can I give up to what can I gain, what can I add to my life, which would enhance my spirituality, my relationship with God?
As you experience the unraveling of life, when things appear to be unbalanced; at some point there may be a plateau effect and there maybe evidence again of a rebalance, a reset in your life.
Think about what was that rebalance, what was that reset for you? Maybe it was changing jobs or careers, perhaps changing partners, leaving an abusive relationship to go to a secure place for rest and reparation. Maybe it was trying to start something new, a business, a hobby, or even a new commitment to your faith.
This Lent does not have to be about deprivation, but rather it can be about growth and enrichment. Now might be the good time to read that book on spirituality that has been on your bookshelf. Now may be the time to collect some food and donate it to a food pantry. Now may be the time to spend some time alone out in nature, by a river or a lake watching birds or ducks and geese. The natural world can be very healing for us.
Reset and rebalance is essential in our spiritual life, in our walk with God in Jesus.
We don’t travel this journey of faith alone. Rather we travel together in community as we move through our lives with all of the successes, failures, struggles and moments of certainty and clarity.
May that sense of community, of traveling the road together in our faith journey be real for all of us this sacred season.
This Easter and beyond.
May it be so.
Rev. Peter E. Bauer is a United Church of Christ minister. He is the Interim Minister for First Christian Church in Lockhart and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and Medium.Com.