Lent: The season of letting go

Written by Sarah Baker

“So, what are you giving up for Lent?”

As someone who has been a Christian her whole and has spent a lot of time hanging out at church, I’ve heard this question a lot. My answer has always been the same: “I don’t know, how about you?” Over the years, I’ve heard many different answers, most recently “beer” and “social media”. For my mom, and I swear 90% of the female Lutheran population, it’s always been “chocolate”.

My go-to answer of “I don’t know” is quite the cop-out. I’ve never really understood the point of giving something up for 40 days. Nobody has ever really explained to me why not eating chocolate for over a month would be beneficial to my spiritual life. If I was going to “give something up” for Lent, why did it have to be something tangible, like beer, social media, and chocolate? What if, instead, I gave up something that wasn’t physical, but something immaterial?

Immaterial things are harder to give up. You can’t just stop buying “self-deprecating humor” for 40 days like you would do for beer. You can’t just delete your “fear of failure” like you can delete Instagram and Twitter off your phone. “Caring what other people think of you” is a lot harder to stop doing than to stop eating dark chocolate Reese’s.

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Sarah captured a couple of heaven-on-earth moments in nature at Holden Village (TOP) and in Houston, TX at the 2018 ELCA Youth Gathering (BOTTOM).

But those are the exact things we should be giving up. And not just for 40 days—for life.

Over the past week, my friends and I have all been trying to find something we each need to “let go of” in our lives. While we were talking, the season of Lent came into my mind. Everyone has something that she’s been holding on to—something that could vastly improve her life if she just let it go.

I think giving up the immaterial habits, negative behaviors, and flawed thinking is exactly what Jesus would want us to do during the season of Lent. Ecclesiastes 3:6 says that there is a time for everything and a season for every activity, specifically “a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away”.

In my opinion, Lent is a time to “give up” and “throw away” our deleterious qualities and to “search” for and “keep” the things that give us life. While this could mean giving up our love (and in some cases, lust, @Mom) for chocolate, we should also consider giving up some other things. In my case, that would be my fear of starting something new or the idea that I should let other people’s opinions affect my choices. For my friends, that would be letting go of a negative self-image or deciding to stop harboring a feeling of guilt.

It’s hard to give up this kind of stuff. It’s super easy to say “yeah, I’m done feeling like that” but it’s quite difficult to actually follow through. That’s where Jesus comes in.  Colossians 3:2 says, “set your mind on things above, not on earthly things”. Jesus doesn’t care about your appearance, about your lack of self-confidence, or about your past mistakes. He knows that none of these things matter in Heaven. These traits are earthly; they will not matter in the afterlife. So why not practice for eternity right now?

By focusing on the fact that there is life after death, the season of Lent has so much more meaning. What if, instead of giving up our material luxuries, we try to let go of the stuff that’s holding us back from experiencing the eternal life here and now? Sure, giving up chocolate for 40 days might reduce your acne and improve your diet. But let’s say that instead, you decided to let go of the thing that was preventing you from living your life the way God intended. Just figuratively throw it into the Mississippi River and watch it float away. And don’t let it dog-paddle its way back 40 days later.

Give it up, let it go, and set your mind on Eternity-mode. Happy Lent!

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