“What are you giving up for Lent?” I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard this question. As a kid it was easy: chocolate, playing video games, annoying my brother and sisters. But as I’ve grown older, it’s become more difficult to decide what to give up. Mainly because I’ve realized Lent isn’t about “giving up” but about sacrifice.
Sacrifice is commonly defined as “destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else” (Merrill-Webster) which fits well with the Lenten season. Jesus Himself surrendered and allowed His life to be destroyed for the sake of our souls. Denying ourselves for the sake of a closer relationship with God is an honorable and holy thing. But sacrifice isn’t just not doing something, but can also be about doing something. We can sacrifice our time and money and effort to volunteer at soup kitchens, sort donations at a local pregnancy center, or teach Catechism.
Each Lent I make the effort to not just “give up” something, but to add something too. Every year I try to pick something to fast from, but also something I can add to my life to grow in my relationship with the Lord and with others. I don’t remember when or who first introduced this concept to me, but it’s stuck with me, especially in the years I’ve been pregnant or nursing during Lent and couldn’t fast quite like I’d like to. At the time of writing, Ash Wednesday is exactly four days away, and honestly, I don’t have an answer to either of these. So what’s my plan to figure this out?
Continue to pray.
Everyday I will ask the Lord in prayer what He wants me to prune (give up) and what to nurture (add to my life). I’m not always the quickest on the uptake in this case, but I’m hopeful He will get through even my stubborn pod-headedness.
Turn to the Saints.
I am sitting with some of my favorite saints for help with some guidance on sacrifice. St. Teresa of Calcutta, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. John Paul the Great and St. Teresa Benedicta are a few of my favorites.
Take it easy.
If I don’t have a plan on Ash Wednesday, I’m ok with that (or at least I’m committed to telling myself that). I will keep praying, keep reading and keep coming back to the Lord and His Passion. I will keep asking Him what He wants of me, and honestly, that’s all any of us can do.