What are you giving up?
In this case, the above isn’t a byline; it’s the answer to the question. Lent allows us a time to reflect on what keeps us from union with Jesus. Often, at least for me, these roadblocks are sins of commission instead of omission. It’s easier to think of what bad thing I can give up instead of what good thing I can adopt when the list of “bad things I currently do” is so long. So, how to decide what to give up?
We usually look at those things that 1) we are attached to, and 2) are not good for us. Of course, 2) is not a necessity; I can be attached to exercise, itself a good thing, such that I neglect my family or my spiritual life. But, again, the list of possibilities that satisfy both criteria is long enough, so now what to choose?
“What thing that I enjoy can I go without for 40 whole days?” I typically ask myself. The point of the Lenten fast is to bring us closer to God, but does not God also go through a type of fast from the things (or people) he loves?
I voluntarily give up, say, Cadbury Creme Eggs for Lent (this is purely hypothetical as my grocery receipts can demonstrate); but God involuntarily had to give up me for much more than 40 days. I don’t allow myself to fully enjoy Creme Eggs for 6 weeks; because of my own pride, spiritual immaturity, and ignorance of my faith, God was not able to fully enjoy me until I was about 31 years old. (My wife spurred this reversion. She sanctified me even before we were married!)
I always stock up on Creme Eggs so that I will be able to enjoy one on perhaps a monthly basis, just as a special treat. God got to “enjoy” my presence twice a year at Mass during the adult portion of those 31 years when I felt guilted into going.
As much as I love Creme Eggs and hate to give them up for 40 days, how much more did God love me during my much longer time away from him! And as much as I appreciate that first bite of Creme Egg after Lent is over, how much more does the Father run out to meet me when I repent and return to him?
Though I am in the church now, I’m still a work very much in progress, so hopefully I open myself to God’s infinite love more each day.
Through our sins we all turn our backs on God and do not allow him to enjoy us. The good news is that, instead of having to wait 40 days to have a Creme Egg, I can let God “break his fast” from me by returning to him this very day.