A recent online, non-scientific survey by Christianity Today revealed the most popular things people give up for Lent: 1) social networking, 2) chocolate, 3) Twitter, 4) alcohol, and 5) chips.
There are some deeper parts of our lives that we might consider giving up for Lent, for the sake of our own spiritual development. In no particular order, and by no means exhaustive, here are some things I think we might want to consider as part of our Lenten journey this year:
Give up the need to be right all the time.
Business author Patrick Lencioni said, “People don’t need to feel like they are right, as much as they need to feel like they’ve been heard.” Yes, claim your voice, assert your convictions, and engage the issues that matter to you. But once you’ve been heard, consider the possibility that you might have something to learn from someone who disagrees with you. That’s often how we learn our most important lessons in life.
Give up your reluctance to ask for help.
Life requires the recognition that we cannot always be self-sufficient. We do not have inexhaustible reserves. Turn to loved ones for support, seek the wise counsel of others, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Give up your fear of failure.
Mother Teresa said, “God does not call us to be successful; God calls us to be faithful.” We may sometimes gauge our self-worth by what we have achieved and how we have succeeded. We can subconsciously depend on the affirmation of others to feel good about ourselves. But our worth does not equal our work, nor are we defined by our failures.
Give up comparing yourself to others.
Forget the Joneses. They are not worth keeping up with. You do not need the envious admiration of others. We aren’t defined by what we do not have. While there is nothing wrong with being self-motivated and goal-oriented, let’s not evaluate our lives in comparison to others.
Give up the need to have things all figured out.
Embrace mystery. Dance with doubts. Acknowledge that we do not and cannot know it all. Resist the temptation to rationalize the irrational parts of our faith, and recognize that some of the greatest things in life are those things that cannot be explained or fully understood. Things like God’s love for us, and how God is with us even when we don’t believe it.
Give up your fears of the future.
These are frightening times for many people. There is great nervousness about the way things are in the world. And I would guess that we all are dealing with fears. I have learned over my years of parish ministry that everyone — without exception — has something that they are dealing with. We all have our fears, but we don’t need to be define by them. For God is a God of hope.
Give up the need to be in control.
This one is at the heart of the season of Lent. It is a reminder that we ultimately are not in control of what happens to us. We cannot control others, and we can hardly claim to have full control of ourselves and our future. We belong to God. For we must ultimately surrender our control over to a God who has created us and claimed us from the beginning.
Give up all the non-essential noise in your life.
This may be the toughest thing of all to give up, but it may be the key to a deeply moving Lenten season. Life is inundated by competing voices and blaring noises from the culture around you. Pay attention to breathing. Take walks. Drive without the radio on. Set the cell phone down when at the family table. Watch less television, read more newspapers and books, and look people in the eye when talking to them. Most of all, pray to God, “Silence all voices but your own.” Turn down the volume of life and connect to a God who knows us better than we know ourselves.
Rev. Bill Schram began his ministry with Westminster in March and is the current Interim Minister. Bill attended McCormick seminary in Chicago and met his wife Jenny there. They have served as co-pastors and in separate positions. He has served churches in urban, near suburb, small town, county seat towns in various positions such as pastor, associate pastor, interim pastor, and hospital chaplain. He and Jenny have two natural and one foster daughter. Delightfully, they now have a granddaughter to enjoy.