Walking Our Faith: Small choices can lead to big changes during Lent (or anytime)
Walking Our Faith
This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season, which are the 40 days leading to Easter. I think of it as our journey with Jesus through the desert and to his death on the cross. For this reason, many people think of Lent as a season of darkness and desolation, fasting and sacrifice.
Unfortunately, the strongest association most people have with Lent is giving up a favorite food group for 40 days.
For instance five years ago I decided to give up my nightly wine for Lent. That quickly was amended to I would only drink wine on weekends. Then I discovered that my “weekends” started on Thursday and ended on Monday which meant I was only giving up wine on Tuesday and Wednesdays.
For the next three years I didn’t give up anything for Lent and rationalized the whole idea of giving up something for Lent was unnecessary for me to prove my love for God.
Two years ago I tried again and this time I didn’t drink any wine for the entirety of Lent. Still, when Lent was over I went back to my old habits.
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Last year I gave up wine for Lent again and each morning I wrote, I love being sober, in my gratitude journal. I’ll be honest, I felt silly writing this because I had had no intention of remaining sober once Lent was over.
Then I realized that I meant what I was writing. I loved being sober. I felt better physically, emotionally and mentally. I slept like a baby every night, which was a relief since I had been plagued by insomnia for years.
So when Lent was over, I made the choice to continue to enjoy my sobriety. As Lent returns again I am celebrating my one year anniversary of sobriety and I couldn’t be happier.
Giving up something for Lent isn’t what we do to prove how holy we are, quite the opposite. I believe it’s to admit how human we are.
What should we give up? Whatever stands in the way of us drawing closer to God, to family, to friends or ourselves. It’s not meant to be a test of our strength or a diet plan.
I believe it is a choice we make each day and for which we ask God’s help.
When I wake in the morning the first thing I usually do is grab my phone and spend 20 minutes scrolling through social media. This is before I’ve even gotten out of bed.
This morning, as usual, I grabbed my phone and started scrolling. But I caught myself and instead I opened the Hallow app, which is a prayer app, and I spent 20 minutes with God.
I realized my small choice to pray instead of scroll was simple, but I felt better as a result.
Every day we make small choices like this. These choices, over time, add up to life-changing decisions that can change the course of our lives.
Mother Theresa famously said that we should do small things with great love. In the same spirit, I would like us to approach Lent with an open heart and mind to some small choice we can make with great love that will open a door toward a more honest relationship with God, our families, our friends and ourselves.
I find myself quoting this particular verse quite a bit this year, Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” — Matthew 11:28-30
As you saw in my example, changing long-held habits isn’t easy. Even when we make that one small choice each day. But this verse reminds us that God is with us, willing to lighten our load, so that we can turn our eyes to him and receive all the love he wants to share and all the strength he wants to give.
I love Lent. I know without the journey through darkness, without the sacrifice and death and resurrection of Christ, there would be no hope for us. Following the journey of the Light of the World brings me great joy.
Lent is truly my favorite season of the year. It reminds me that we are on a journey to grow closer to God and to become the good souls that he created us to be. Amen.
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at email@example.com.
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