I have done - and attempted not to do - many things for Lent. Giving up chocolate was not particularly difficult for me as it's not my biggest area of temptation in the food department. Biscuits were harder. Coffee would be impossible, though I did once go decaf for the forty days.
I've given up Facebook, and found on the whole that it was a positive experience with a lasting effect. The time that I found by not grazing on trivia I spent journalling, and that has become something very precious in my life. Social media doesn't have the same hold on me that it once had, though I still have to be careful. No, this year, something different.
A book? A set of Lent devotions? Hmm - I am swamped by reading at the moment and I'm thoroughly enjoying a pile of new fiction that I tell myself is essential as research as I'm trying to write a novel of my own at the moment. One of the websites with daily suggestions of good things to do and acts of generosity...? Maybe.
And then I saw an article that jumped out at me. A gentleman called Phil Ressler, Pastor of a Church in New Jersey, America, wrote an article entitled 'Forty things to give up for Lent'. The list just grabbed me - it stood out from the page and flashed repeatedly. Almost. Anyway, suddenly I knew what I was going to be doing that was different in the run up to Easter this year.
So many things on Mr Ressler's list were meant Just For Me. I decided that I would pray through one of his suggestions each day. Maybe aim to devote at least one page in my journal to each topic. That seemed both positive and do-able.
I soon learned that he'd written a book with the same title as this article, and even as my finger twitched towards the Amazon link, (Ooh, there's a book, buy the book!) I had another thought - no, I didn't want this to become another exercise in reading someone's take on each item on the list - I'd read through all forty and identified at least three quarters of them as things that need attention in my life. Probably God would add the other ten to the list as well, and so I wanted it to be my prayers, and His answers.
So, this is my plan. With just the words and concepts that Mr Ressler listed, I am going to bring each one before God and say what's on my heart, then listen for anything He would like to say to me. Some might say that this is a very inward-looking way of spending Lent, and that might be true, but I think for me, at a point in my life when I feel beset by loads of things that I thought I'd managed to beat, (most of which are on the list) it seems easily as valuable as cutting out crisps or resolving to do twenty sit-ups every day until Bank Holiday Monday.
Ooh, the horror of sit-ups.
Here's the list. If you know me even a little you'll see that we got off to a flying start.
- Fear of Failure
- Your Comfort Zone
- Feelings of Unworthiness
- People Pleasing
- Lack of Counsel
- The Spirit of Poverty
- Going Through the Motions
- The Pursuit of Happiness
- Giving Up
- Destructive Speech
- The Quick Fix
- Resistance to Change
- Small View of God
- Selfish Ambition
- My Life
For each suggestion, there is a sentence explaining what the author means, but I am not making a note of that. I want to take each word and think about it, exploring what comes to mind, and then listen to see if/how God would have me change the way I think, act or speak. I suspect there's much work to be done.
Time spent with God is never wasted, is it? My One Word for 2015 is 'PEACE' - and it occurs to me that most - if not all - of these forty things are peace-stealers. Please God, it might be a long road, but I hope to take the first steps to reclaiming each of these bits of my life.
So, this is my Lent Task. Time in prayer each day around these forty areas of life. I've already found that the first two stretched to multiple journal pages, much heart-searching and unexpected insights, so I'm hoping for real change over the next month and a bit.
I'll let you know how it goes.
I may need a new journal before very long.
Article reference: 40 Things to Give up for Lent: The List by Phil Ressler, Pastor of the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Old Bridge, NJ. Published on the Church website 11/2/2015