Giving Up or Showing Up: Lent And The Less Easy Way

Giving Up or Showing Up: Lent And The Less Easy Way February 28, 2020

Temptation is a loaded word. Does it make you think first of standard-issue sin, like stealing, adultery, and murder?  Or do you envision a laundry list of vices– fattening foods, alcohol, and luxury items you don’t “need” to buy?

For Lent, maybe we can reframe the word to bring it closer to our everyday lives. Because most days, temptation is less about doing what is wrong; and more about doing what is easy.

If y’all remember, I failed Lent last year. Big time. We were in the middle of moving, I was really sick, my life was in upheaval, and…well, there were so many new restaurants to try! It was a season when I needed for something in my life to be easy. The thought of giving myself one more self-imposed burden or discipline of any kind was just more than I could reckon with.

I’m trying again this year now that the dust has settled, and it’s got me thinking about the problem with “easy.” I give myself a pass on last year–shake the dust and all that. And if you are in a season when you need a path of less resistance, not more, then give yourself that grace too.

At the same time, remember that the thing that is easy is not necessarily the thing that is good. Sometimes “easy,” and our desire for a life of ease, is precisely the thing that keeps us from living our fullest, deepest life.

And Lent doesn’t have to be about what you give up. It can be about how you show up.

How we show up should not always be easy. It’s easy, for instance, to pass on the other side of the street when someone is in need. To ignore tension in our relationship rather than have hard conversations. To mindlessly consume without regard for impact on the earth and our neighbor. To not challenge the unjust systems we take part in–even benefit from–every day.

What’s easy and most tempting, in the everyday sense of the word, is to dwell in what is safe and comfortable. But when we do that, we fail to really connect with those we love. We fail our neighbors. We fail as disciples, and as stewards of God’s creation.

This is why we follow Jesus to the wilderness, where for 40 days our temptation is right in front of us. We lay something down to create space for another thing– a new thing, a better thing, a more life-giving thing. With comforts and safety nets gone, we can recognize and name the sin that keeps us living small. And then, we learn to walk in a better way. It shifts how we show up for our lives. It draws us into a deeper presence.

My path this year is about both giving up, and showing up. I’m tackling a trifecta of things that I’ve tried in other years, just doing it all at once this time. I’m going vegetarian, (following the example of my daughter, who is an everyday non-meat eater); I will abstain from purchases outside of groceries; and I’m giving up weekday drinking. (Yes, I said weekday drinking– I’m only a person).

These aren’t arbitrary things for me. Each of these things is about 1) physical well-being; 2) caring for the earth by being less of a consumer; and 3) giving my spiritual self some breathing room by being less of a slave to my impulses.

Also, I failed dry January, so this is kind of a do-over of that.

The discipline of Lent can be about what you give up; or it can be about how you show up. What changes can you make to answer your everyday temptation? For 40 days, try and make three small shifts:

-One for your physical self
-One for your relationship(s)
-One for the good of your neighbor/the earth

Whatever these things mean for you, try and make this season about how you show up for the people you love; how you show up for your neighbors; and tuning in to the things that you do or consume just because they are “easy.”

Full-disclosure, I’m not starting Lent until Sunday. Because I’m going to New York this weekend, and I don’t think they allow Sober Vegetarians Who Do Not Shop to pass through the city gates. Maybe I’m trying to make it easy for myself… or maybe I’m just trying to “show up” in a way that is authentic to the place itself. 

So, what’s your path this year: giving up, or showing up? Or both? Either way, see what God can do when you make space for what’s less easy.

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