Ash Wednesday has come and gone, the first Sunday of Lent was yesterday, and I still haven’t decided what to give up or add for Lent this year.
One year I gave up listening to the car radio, and learned to appreciate the silence as I drove. Another year I added a jigsaw puzzle, although I never did finish it, and months later piled all the pieces back into the box. For a few years, I added a short daily walk to pick up the mail, although never managed to be as consistent as I envisioned. Even though Lent lasts for just over six weeks, you could say I’ve had rather mixed results with giving up and/or adding something for that time.
“Maybe I’ll just give up Lent for Lent this year,” I said to myself.
Then I read these words from Joan Chittister, a Benedictine nun and respected religious and social leader:
Lent gives us an opportunity to look again at who we are, at where we’re going in life, at how we’re getting to where we say we want to go. . . .
Lent puts options before us. We can choose to be open or hardhearted, attuned to God or closed to everything but the self, full of faith or drowned in despair, stagnant or full of life. Lent is a choice of directions. – from A Choice of Directions
In that sense, it’s really Lent all year round, isn’t it? For we make those kinds of choices every day, between being open to God or closed in on ourselves, between being stuck in a holding pattern or living an abundant life.
In the quiet after worship yesterday, I read a litany by inspirational writer William Arthur Ward that further develops this contrast. An official website for his writing is currently under construction, and I’ve found his litany with some variations in many places online. I appreciate this version divided into verses from Global Christian Worship:
Fast from judging others; feast on the Christ within them.
Fast from emphasis on difference; feast on the unity of life.
Fast from apparent darkness; feast on the reality of light.
Fast from thoughts of illness; feast on the healing power of God.
Fast from words that pollute; feast on phrases that purify.
Fast from discontent; feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger; feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.
Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.
Fast from worry; feast on trust in God’s care.
Fast from unrelenting pressure; feast on unceasing prayer.
Fast from facts that depress; feast on verities that uplift.
Fast from lethargy; feast on enthusiasm.
Fast from thoughts that weaken; feast on promises that inspire.
Fast from shadows of sorrow; feast on the sunlight of serenity.
Fast from problems that overwhelm; feast on prayer that undergirds.
Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others.
Fast from personal anxiety; feast on eternal truth.
Fast from discouragements; feast on hope.
I’m sure that kind of fasting and feasting will keep me well occupied this Lent and all year round.
Writing/Reflection Prompt: Which line of this litany most resonates with you, and why?
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