Even as a person of faith for more than forty years, Lent still confounds me. The stated purpose according to the Catholic tradition, is to spiritually prepare for Holy Week by means of personal penance.
As I have worked this over in my mind, not being rooted in the Catholic tradition, I have come to appropriate Lent not so much with the mindset of “giving things up” — to suffer because Jesus suffered — but of making room for holiness, even as Jesus embodied holiness during his last days.
There has been one Lenten tradition that I have regularly appropriated. Lent is the only season when hot-crossed buns are available and, out of a desire to sacrifice, I buy them every week during Lent. You think I’m joking.
My weekly grocery budget has no wiggle room. I cannot afford hot-crossed buns. It takes conscious will and it pains me, yet I make myself buy them. It is an assertion of trust. God will meet my needs —I bank on it every time I pass hot-crossed buns through the check-out.
For those of us who wonder what the fuss is about when it comes to this season of 40 days, who might not of have been reared in the Catholic tradition and in turn “don’t get it” in its classical sense, Lent can be a meaningful season to give occasion to God to get a footing and take new ground in your crowded life. To give God the chance to be active and faithful in small and practical ways. To defer your sovereignty over your life to his sovereignty over your life –like Jesus did when he prayed not my will, but Yours. This requires intentionality and may involve not doing something that tethers your life to old habits. But you are making way for God to do something else. That will carve inroads of holiness into your life. It will result in God’s nature overruling yours. And that is what it means to be a person of faith.
So rather than entertain the question ‘what shall I give up for Lent’, ask ‘In what ways shall I invite God to assert transformative grace in my everyday life?’