I realized today that this will be my first real participation in the season of lent. Growing up in an evangelical church, we were more interested in Good Friday and Easter than Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. And I'd never practiced the discipline of lent - never given or taken something up for those 40 days before Easter.
Now that Wes and I have been involved with a more traditional church for the past few years, I am learning more about this wonderful season. And with us being more theologically minded, I really wanted to take lent seriously. There's no giving up "candy" or "soda" for me. This needed to mean something. It needed to be something that makes room for God.
I was trying to explain lent to some 1st and 2nd grade kids in our church. Eventually I ended up saying "Lent is giving up (or taking up) something that you like to do, but if done too much, could be bad for you, and by giving it up it will bring you closer to God." And our kids actually came up with some cute ideas like, "I will stop shopping at "Justice"" , "I will stop riding in the car and walk more", "I will give up my video games" and "I will stop fighting with my sister" etc.
So I have been thinking long and hard about what to do for lent. Wes and I are following this guideline to help us:
1. What kind of person do you want to be?
2. What keeps you from being who you want to be?
3. How does giving this up, strengthen your relationship with God and others?
After thinking about it for some time, I finally realized this:
I want to be present in the lives of those around me. Instead, I feel myself very disconnected from those around me, even though I am connected to hundreds of people through social networks like facebook and twitter. In fact, those social network sites are hindering my ability to focus on those around me. I can know everything my cousin is doing everyday because of status updates...but when was the last time I actually talked to my cousin? Ate with my cousin? Laughed with my cousin? Facebook gives me (us?) a false sense of closeness - not to mention I spend an average of 4 hours a day on it. Giving up facebook will give me space to make room for God and others. It will force me to watch a movie with my husband, instead of sit on the computer while he plays video games. It will force me to call up a friend for coffee (because I've suddenly opened up a couple hours of my evening!). It will give me time to read, write and pray.
I recently discovered a blog that I totally dig called Sorta Crunchy written by a mom who's passions seem to be very similar to mine. She is starting a Lenten practice called "40 days of community". This community of bloggers and readers will be participating in a few "challenges" but one of my favorites is this: Once a week, share a meal with someone you've never shared a meal with before.
What a vulnerable but life-nourishing challenge! It is hard to eat with those you don't know well. It can be awkward! But what a great compliment to what I am desperately trying to do: spend quality time with those around me. We are also reading a book together called "Common Prayer" by Shane Claiborn (who I love tremendously) and we will be writing reflections on what we are reading. Please check out that post specially here.