This morning, I got an email reminding me to give something up for Lent: how about coffee or
tea, or chocolate? How about I don’t eat sweets today?
Have you ever wondered why this tradition of giving something up for Lent exists in the first place? Not having grown up with it, here is how I understand it: millions of Christians give something up for Easter as a way of remembering Christ’s sacrifice while he was in the desert for 40 days fasting and praying.
Of course, there are other things that we are encouraged to give up for Easter, for example
social media, TV, the political cycle, or other distractions that we can fast from. I can understand why that would be important. And yet, I wonder, what if we changed the
language from giving up to letting go? How would that change our Lenten practice?
In his book of Lenten reflections, Wonderous Encounters: Scripture for Lent, Father Richard Rohr says that God likes the kind of fasting that changes our actual lifestyle and not just punishes the body. By focusing on giving up different foods or habits, we avoid the harder work of letting go of our attachments to fears, money, prejudices, or other sins. It is precisely these attachments that are the hardest ones to let go of and ones that God beacons us to pay attention to. Letting go of what drags us down—our convictions, unforgiveness, fear, prejudice, money, etc. asks more of us than giving up a food group or a habit. It takes more work, it is harder, yet the results are so much more life-changing.
One year, I decided to let go of worrying, during Lent. I tend to worry a lot, even when I know there is nothing I can do to control the situation I am concerned about. During that Lent, every time I worried about something, I stopped and reminded myself that worry was not an option since I have already committed to letting it go. It felt so freeing not to waste my time and energy being worried about something I had no control over. I felt a lot more peaceful, lighter, and not dragged down by thoughts.
I invite you to take up the practice of finding lightness in letting go this Lent. Notice what drags you down and what you have a hard time letting go of? Choose one of these attachments to work on. Every time you find yourself holding on to what you need to let go of, notice it, take a deep breath, and let it go by giving it to God.
What is God calling you let go of during this Lent and beyond?