So, rather than get in the way of people who really do want to better themselves, I skip the whole shenanigans and wait until I’m truly inspired to do something different. Over the years of our marriage, my husband and I have often found that inspiration in Lent. The whole concept of giving something up or taking on something new, in solidarity with Christ and his suffering, burdens me, and commits me spiritually in a way that 1/1/whatever never could.
Making changes in my life for Lent has both those spiritual connotations, and also some practical ones. Lent is for six weeks. It is the perfect trial period for life improvement. You can commit to almost anything for six weeks; it’s a very do-able length of time. You won’t have to feel like a failure at the end, if you don’t keep it up, because it was only a six week commitment to begin with. But it is also a long enough time to know by the end whether your changes bring the kind of joy and benefit that makes them worth continuing. Many valuable life improvements have sprung from the brief six week commitment of Lent.
One year, we gave up coffee creamer. We lost 5 pounds each. While we went back to drinking creamer, we do not consume nearly the quantities we did before. Another year, we gave up TV. That was hard! We tried to tape all our shows so we could catch up after Lent, but it really never happened. It helped us realize how much time TV was consuming, and how unimportant the missed episodes were to our enjoyment of later shows. We developed a family mantra of, “We will never lament that we missed a TV show because we were out living our real lives.” We went back to TV, but we also disarmed it from having so much power over us.
This year, we decided to start walking 3-4 times a week. We mapped out the neighborhood and our walks range from .7-1.5 miles. We’re slowly working in some running, too, but not pressuring ourselves with it. Mostly, it’s just about keeping our commitment, to get out there and be in creation while moving our bodies. I’ve been impressed that so far, we’re actually sticking to it, and I’m noticing some improvement to my stamina and muscle tone. Who knows, maybe this will be one of those Lenten rituals that actually lasts past Easter?
With every change we make, with every habit we start or break, there is some internal switch that seems to flip – or not flip – in us that determines our outcome. New Year’s never really flipped that switch for me, but, and I know I may sound a little hokey here, Jesus does. Whether it’s that “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13),” or “Everything should be done in a way that will bring honor to God because of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 4:11), Lent is a season, where my meager sacrifices and gifts take on a much more meaningful and deeper symbolism than they deserve. What’s a day without meat, or a cup of coffee without creamer, compared to the unthinkable suffering Jesus endured? If he did that, the least I can do is commit for six short weeks.
If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:11