Totally Crushing the Giving it Up for Lent Game
Forget giving up something precious to you for Lent this year. Haven’t we all already given up enough? This year give up all the things you don’t like anyway. Dusting for example. Why not give up dusting?
Covid 19 exploded onto the awareness of the western world during the liturgical season of Lent in 2020. “I sure didn’t expect to be giving up going to church for Lent,” was the hottest church joke in town.
Despite Trump’s assurances that this whole thing would be gone by Easter a year ago, we have rolled all the way around to another Ash Wednesday with a world still rocked to its core by Covid restrictions and chaos.
This year I’m going to follow the example set for me by my daughter when she was three and discovered Lent for the first time.
A preschooler’s take on Lent
“Mommy, what am I giving up for Lent?” my daughter asked as we drove to our Music and Movement Class.
“Nothing,” I said surprised. “We don’t really give things up for Lent in our family.”
“Trixie says I have to give up something for Lent. If you don’t give something up it means you don’t love Jesus.” Trixie lived next door and being almost two years older than my daughter was the authority on most things.
A bit of a theological tussle ensued as I explained that some Christians choose to give something up in the 40 days before Easter to remind themselves that Jesus up gave up staying in heaven to come down and live as a human and then he was willing to suffer and die for us. But you can love Jesus without giving something up.
“No,” she said firmly. “I need to give something up. I just don’t know what. I have to think about it.”
She pondered this dilemma throughout the class. I pondered what had possessed me to think signing up for a parent and child Music and Movement class with a three-year-old, two-year-old, and newborn was a good idea.
“Now we are going to march and sing, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” said the overly enthusiastic teacher. “Everyone come choose an instrument.” My two-year-old rushed forward to get a top pick. The three-year-old stayed glued to my side.
“Don’t you want an instrument?” I asked her.
“No. It’s a stupid song. I hate that song.”
Hours later she burst in on me while I was changing the baby’s diaper. “I know what I’m giving up for Lent. Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”
Trixie was not impressed. “You are supposed to give up something you like, not something you hate. I’m giving up candy. You can’t give up a song.”
“Yes, I can.”
“Jesus won’t be happy,” Trixie said self-righteously.
“Of course He will,” my daughter insisted. “It’s a stupid song. Jesus doesn’t want me to sing stupid songs. Jesus loves me.”
I found her logic oddly compelling.
Why give anything up for Lent?
I did not grow up in a faith tradition that made a big deal out of Lent. But as an adult, I have often appreciated giving something up or taking something new on during Lent.
Lent appears on the calendar in exactly the right spot. Far enough for the overly ambitious resolutions of the new year to have fallen by the wayside but early enough that the limited time frame of 40 days feels doable. Winter is still here but the promise of spring is in the air.
You aren’t making a commitment to change everything in your life, just change something for 40 days. It isn’t meant to be about self-improvement, although most people use it that way. It’s about doing something that will make you stop and think frequently throughout the day, ideally turning your thoughts to God.
This year is different
Most years taking a 40-day break from something normal to shake up and add some intentional discomfort to your life is a fine plan. Not something required by God, unless you are Trixie, but still a nice idea if you are so inclined.
Most years my life could do with a good shaking up, an end to complacency. This year feels different.
It’s been eleven long months of Lent for most of us. We’ve already given up so much. Seeing grandparents and grandchildren. Hugging friends and family members. Travel. Eating out. Casual dating. Movie theaters and haircuts. Graduations and long-planned wedding celebrations. I could go on and on but the weight of the loss starts to become crushing.
So this year I’ve decided I’m going to turn to the wisdom of my child. I’m going to give up as many annoying frustrating things as I can for Lent.
Why did my daughter hate Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star? Hard to say exactly, but I think it represented all the things she didn’t get to choose. She couldn’t wake up in the morning and say, “I don’t feel like going to Music and Movement class with the rest of you today. You go on without me and I’ll stay home and entertain myself.”
As a three-year-old, the world mostly happens to you. Siblings arrive and you love them but they also embarrass you with their over-the-top enthusiasm for things like dancing and singing in public when you would rather stay on the sidelines and watch. You are completely at the mercy of your parents for when and where you go.
So when faced with choosing something to give up in her life, my child chose to give up an annoying song, to give up the pressure to perform. Everyone else may be grabbing an instrument and going wild but I’m going to say no to the pressure to participate.
I’m choosing a better song, Jesus Loves Me This I Know. So I can stop striving to do the expected. I can choose to not sing and dance to the tune that moves everyone else. I can stay on the sidelines guilt-free.
She always has been a deep thinker this eldest child of mine.
Covid 19 reminds all of us of our powerlessness to completely alter our environment and experiences to suit our desires. We tried wishing it away, ignoring it, arguing about it, buckling down, and following all the guidelines only to be thwarted by neighbors who weren’t careful. We’ve thrown science at it and slowly vaccines are making a difference but not quickly enough to suit our pent-up desires.
So instead of denying ourselves something for Lent this year, why not follow the lead of my child and choose instead to throw away an expectation that is weighing you down. Not forever necessarily just for a time.
Like dusting. For 40 days the dust bunnies are going to have free reign in my house. Not that I was obsessive about dusting before but now I’m giving myself permission to let go, to notice the shabbiness that will ensue and even celebrate it.
God doesn’t care if I keep the house tidy. I don’t need to care either. I can let things go for Lent and then chose 40 days later what I will and will not take back into my life.
Dust is a silly example of course. I rarely dust as it is. But I notice the dust and other signs of my neglectful cleaning standards and I feel guilt.
What I’m really giving up for Lent is the guilt. This is not a normal time, I’m telling myself. The year of Covid has been a long tiring road and it is not over. Clean or don’t clean. Who cares. The burden of this past year is heavy.
I’m way ahead of you, I imagine many of you are saying. I gave up all cleaning standards last March and they never returned. Me too in many ways but I realized recently I haven’t given up the guilt, the sense that I’m not doing enough during this time of lockdown.
That’s what I’m giving up for Lent. Whether or not Lent has any religious significance to you consider joining me in giving up guilt. If it helps you to think about a higher power loving you just the way you are, go for it. But self-love is powerful as well.
It’s been a tough year. We all deserve a break from expectations. Especially our own.