Lent is coming up quickly. Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent, is next week. With Lent fast approaching, it makes me think about the invitation to observe Lent with forty days of self-examination and repentance; with prayer, fasting, self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s Word. Beyond that though, are the voices in my head asking, “What are you giving up for Lent this year?”
Honestly, I don’t want to do Lent this year. I don’t want to just get through Lent. I want Lent to get through to me. I don’t want Lent to be about self-improvement.
I want to be saved from embarking on a journey of self-punishment in the hope of a divine reward. I need to remind myself that Lent is more than giving something up for forty days, only to start back on Easter morning.
I do not want to do Lent this year, at least in the giving-something-up kind of way.
Instead, I want to discover that tender, instinctual, and deeply human part of me that loves. I want to discover what Jesus calls the heart in the gospel reading for Ash Wednesday (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21). I want to learn what it is I give myself to. What do I really love? What are my treasures? Where is my heart?
Jesus reminds us that one’s heart and treasure cannot be separated. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). The heart follows one’s treasures. When I name my treasures then I will find my heart.
That’s when I have to, for better or worse, acknowledge the treasures I have given myself to and the direction they have taken my life. I would rather just be good this year for Lent. It would certainly be easier and also a lot less painful.
I do not want to do Lent this year.
Some treasures are of lasting and eternal value, others are not. Some are worth holding on to. Others I need to let go of regardless of how much I think I love or need them. They are fool’s gold.
Learning to love and learning what to love, learning what to hold on to and what to let go of, that’s the real work of Lent. That’s when I stop doing Lent. That’s when Lent gets through me.
Pastor for Care and Community