In a culture of excess, I understand that giving something up for Lent can feel freeing. To shed the excess and get back to basics, to let go of the unnecessary to focus on the essential, to “simplify, simplify, simplify” as in Thoreau’s Walden makes good sense and good spiritual practice. I’ve observed Lent that way too, like the time I gave up listening to my car radio for Lent and drove in silence without my favourite political talk show or even the traffic news.
Other times, I’ve added something for Lent, like a daily walk to pick up the mail. Instead of simplifying my life by subtraction, I simplified by adding a simple practice. Making space for those few minutes to the mailbox and back became an expression of mindfulness and time to reflect on Jesus, an added opportunity to be neighbourly, a time to get some fresh air and get moving. I came to appreciate the practice so much that I thought I should continue it year round.
Of course, that didn’t happen.
When I went to the mailbox the other day, I realized that once again I hadn’t picked up the mail for well over a week. That was no problem with all of the flyers that went straight into the recycling box anyway, but my sincere apologies to R whose envelope was there waiting for me!
So with the start of Lent this Wednesday, I’ve again decided to add a daily walk to the mailbox. It may not sound like much, but that’s actually the point — for me, it’s a way of slowing down and simplifying in memory of Jesus. Nothing that I could give up would match his journey to the cross or the suffering that awaited him there, but at least my footsteps will remind me of his path of service and self-denial, of suffering and resurrection.
What about you? Are you giving up something for Lent, or adding a spiritual practice of some kind?