Today is never an easy day. For some, they “come out” as Catholics by having ashes drawn in the shape of a cross on their skull. Others think they are practicing a silly superstition. And still others, shudder at the following:
They realize they are going to die.
Indeed that is the stark message of Ash Wednesday. None of us live forever; we are all going to die.
But the deeper message of Ash Wednesday is that we all have a part of us that needs to die so that we might live a better life. We don’t just give up something like candy for Lent for the sake of giving it up. We think deeply about that part of us that needs to die. What do we need to get rid of so that we might live in a better way? Might we want to shed a few pounds if sluggishness has been an issue for us of late? Is there something that has power over us like food or sex or something else–something that prohibits us from realizing that all we really need is God. What has an unhealthy power over us?
The idea of Lent is not to stop eating chocolate and then do gorge on bunnies the day Easter Sunday arrives. The purpose of our Lenten fast is to rid ourselves of something that holds us back from being all that we can be. And if we can do that for 40 days then we can keep it up beyond that as well.
For me, it’s lazyness this year. I find myself over-sleeping and wasting a lot of time lately, time that I could use more productively. Part of the problem is that my weight is high, I don’t control my diet and I don’t exercise. That leads me into becoming a slug. So this lent I’m participating in a weight loss contest and I’m exercising in some way every day, some yoga in the early morning and than various workouts at the gym four times a week. I’m also eating better. My thought is that I may be able to “give up” one pound a day or 40 lbs for Lent.
So pray for my lenten practice. Check out BustedHalo’s Pray, Fast, Give Calendar and then let that guide you through a series of fasting, praying and almsgiving for Lent. Pray for yourself as well that you might die a bit this lent. And give something of yourself to others. I find when I fast from something I get a bit more time to be with others–the time I would have been doing that unhealthy practice. The idea is not to substitute one unhealthy practice for another but to give that time to something that is life giving to one’s self and to others.
What will you die do this Lent?
With God’s help, we all just might grow this Lent.