This new year of 2014 is marching along. In the life of the church, Lent is fast approaching. Inevitably, I’ll be hearing, “What are you giving up for Lent this year?” It’s as automatic as, what are you doing for your New Year’s resolution? “Chocolate? Sweets? Cokes? Swearing? What are you giving up this year for Lent?” “Nothing,” I usually say. Last year that was a fib. I actually did set out to give up something, and now a year later and as we approach a new Lenten season, the season of fasting, and “giving up,” I’m reflecting on what I’ve tried to give up, and how that’s worked for me.
Last year’s Lent, I tried to give up something I suspect each and every one of us faces every day …most likely several times a day to one degree or another. I used to think I was the only one who really deserved to have as much of it as I did have; that was until I got to know people… really know people and listen to them, and their stories. My own experience of it, reminded me of an episode from Seinfeld. I assumed that if I were to tell my story, the whole story, and nothing but the story, folks would be as pale and staggering as Jerry from that episode, when after hearing George’s innermost demons he cautiously backed away in shock and said with hands raised in submission: “Good luck with all that.” But, I’ve realized everyone has their own fair share of it.
Fear: that’s what I tried to give up for Lent last year. Fear is such a uniquely human feature. Our ability to anticipate the future is a wonderful gift, but it does tend to go awry in our human handling of it, at least my handling of it. It’s a good thing to think and plan for tomorrow, so there’s food in the fridge, and the house payment is made on the first of the month. But, then again… do our pets, worry about food being placed in their bowls tomorrow, or the kennel being repossessed? Does my grandson Cooper concern himself with having enough diapers in his traveling bag; or his approaching nap time? He has no concern for the mushy green bean fu-Manchu dripping from his chin as he playfully squishes a handful of it between his fingers.
Jesus tells us more often than any other issue: do not be afraid –I came to give you life, and life to the fullest, do not worry about tomorrow…the flowers of the field and birds of the air… Over and over again he tells us this, and yet he ends up sweating drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane; so even though he tells us not to do it, he experienced it himself. He understood it first hand, even to a degree we can’t possibly imagine. There’s something comforting knowing that Jesus knows what we are feeling.
So, what did I do with my fear through Lent and after? I prayed about it for sure. Every day I asked God to help me with it. Every day, I tried to live in the moment and not speculate the worst of the future, tomorrow, next week, next month, … and now it’s next year. I’ve survived. I never had a moment when I didn’t have exactly what I needed. Not always what I wanted or how I thought things should be. But, truly no serious need went unmet. Even now, when my mind starts down that trail of doom and gloom, I try to make a conscious effort to stop and look for a sunnier path, or maybe try to give it to God to let him process and recycle it. I try to remember Jesus is with me on this journey, to help carry my cross. And that he literally carried one too.
For the most part this past year, I’ve been able to “let go, and let God,” handle the stuff. And now a new Lenten Season is fast approaching. It is still a time to repent, to reorient, and to set a new course –for life, not just for 40 days. So for this new season, I’ll keep working on this fear thing. Scary and difficult times are surely ahead; that’ life. I pray I can continue to leave my fears at the foot of the Cross, and live in the freedom and joy that Christ died to make possible for me…and for all of us.