One year in elementary school, I gave up my bed for Lent. I was only a few years into understanding Lent and the idea of fasting something for a season, but I was already tired of the typical things we tend to give up.
Ice cream? That was last year.
Soda? Didn’t drink enough of it for it to “count.”
TV? Been there, done that.
Facebook? Well, that was still several years in the making.
I knew it couldn’t be school or homework. It had to be something I loved, and something I would miss, so in an attempt to be different, I chose my bed. For a little over forty nights straight, you could find me sleeping on my bedroom floor.
Even at around eight years old, I think I realized my Lenten experience had been missing something. Sure, it was cool to say that I hadn’t had any chocolate for forty days. And it was fun to eat loads of it on Easter morning. But when all was said and done, I would go back to eating chocolate, as if nothing had changed. And I think the real problem with the way I was doing Lent was just that: Nothing in me really ever changed.
While I don’t think I understood this at the time, I think a part of me was hoping that by choosing something different, my experience would be different. And in some ways, it was. The year I gave up my bed was the first Lent I can remember really learning something, and really being changed, even in a small way. You see, without the comfort of my bed each night, I learned to be grateful for the gift of even having a bed of my own. And because waking up and going to sleep on the floor wasn’t really normal for me, each morning and each night, I was reminded of the season of Lent, of Christ’s sacrifice, and of God’s love. To this day, some 20+ years later, there are still nights I go to sleep reminded of the lessons I learned during that particular Lenten season.
I have come to realize that Lent really isn’t about what we give up. It isn't about our sacrifice. That might seem obvious to some, but it took me awhile to really get that. Since figuring that out, there have even been years where instead of giving something up, I have chosen to add something in. No matter what we choose to take away or take on, the real point is that we are doing something different in our lives - something that creates space for remembering God’s sacrifice, and growing closer to God’s heart.
It’s taking what is ordinary in our lives, and doing something unordinary instead. Because it’s in the unordinary that we are reminded to remember.
For some, giving up the daily Diet Coke really does remind them to remember. For others, not being able to spend time on their favorite social media app reminds them to remember. For others still, taking time each day to write a thank you note to someone who has made a difference, reminds them to remember. One idea is not better than another. The point is that the idea, whatever it might be for you, achieves the purpose: That you are reminded to remember.
When we make an exterior change in our lives, the result is often an interior change. And so, whatever your “unordinary” might be, my hope is that this Lenten season would be particularly meaningful. Even if it always is, or even if it’s never been. That we would change and grow, reflect and remember. That we would be reminded of our brokenness, and God’s love. Our sin, and Christ’s sacrifice. Our sorrow, and the Hope and Joy found on Easter morning.