By Bailey Brawner
I can’t believe it’s already that time again. Lent is happening. In just a few days, we will be spreading cross-shaped ashes on our foreheads and attending Lenten Bible studies, all to prepare for the celebration of Christ’s resurrection. Wow. Big days are ahead.
A fairly common practice held during the season of Lent is giving up something. Usually, this is done to show a kind of sacrifice on your part, which can represent Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the cross.
Don’t worry, seminary hasn’t made me that jaded. I recognize giving up your favorite food item or, like my Pastor Rose, giving up sky diving, is not an equal comparison to Jesus giving up his life for us. However, the practice is instead a way to remember his sacrifice over the 40 days, and that’s a great thing.
In previous years, I’ve been so focused on what I gave up that I lost touch of prime parts of my life which are of value to me the rest of the year. For instance, I gave up junk food one year, and found myself skipping out on time with friends if they wanted to go get ice cream after a game. Sacrifice is awesome, but for me, it becomes Holy when the rest of me stays rooted and balanced, and focused on the God who works on me beyond just the Lenten season.
With that being said, I don’t yet know what I’m giving up (or even if I’ll choose anything), but I can tell you today what I won’t be giving up.
Sometimes I get to the point where I need to vent. Maybe I was misunderstood by someone at work, or a classmate is just getting on my nerves. I find myself grabbing a friend, and letting the words come out, like a waterfall that may or may not be drinkable. While I probably could be a little more like Jesus in those times, the act of naming, even if it’s incorrect naming, is important in my process. My feelings don’t change just because a certain time of the year rolls around. In fact, maybe this season of mindfulness and intentionality is just the time to seek the feelings, the good ones and the ones we aren’t so graceful about showing.
Time To Try New Things
With Lent often comes weekly Bible studies, prayers, or like me, blog postings. This season brings with it a lot of routine.In places of routine, I can find myself running on autopilot easily, going through the motions without much thought. For this reason, I will not give up finding time to try new things, to get out of that proverbial box. You will not find me swimming in the Charles River, eating sushi, or any other gross or dangerous feat you might think is fun, but switching things up gives us new meanings to our everyday’s and adds substance to the world we live in.
Lent is not about being perfect. Let me say it again-for myself, and for you if you need to hear it. Lent is not about being perfect. Just because you’ve given yourself a goal to
avoid chocolate (never going to happen) stay off Instagram or read your Bible everyday does not mean you fail if you have a day where you like a cute cat photo or the Bible stays closed. This place we call home offers so many things to us, and has so many opportunities, including a societal norm of being perfect. As my friend, Nicole Pate said, “You don’t have to have it all together. It’s about balance; putting effort into connecting with God”. So be gentle with yourself.
The Word No
On the subject of being gentle, my growing edge comes right out into the open. I’m in a place in my life where my surroundings are exciting and full of opportunities I want to explore. My calendar is full and the alarm clock gets set earlier and earlier to get what I plan to accomplish done. After the jam-packed boxes of my calendar app move to the next day, I am exhausted, but also full of life. But, I know I’m often doing too much. It’s tough though, to say no to something you love, or to something you are interested in learning more about. It is tough, but also necessary. A mentor of mine once said that we must say no in order to say yes. This is to say, that there are all the small things we want to do, the lectures or the party on the weekend. Those things are enticing, but when we say no to them, we allow ourselves to say yes to what actually matters; our relationships, our family, our health, and our faith. With the opportunities to engage in the season of Lent, don’t forget about what will still be present in your life after your Easter outfit is back in storage.
In this season of Lent that’s fast approaching, I pray that we hold firm to the integral parts of our being that make us whole all year-round.