The idea for my devotion came from Fr. James Martin, Jesuit priest, and author of There is No Right Way to Pray. I listened to a brief interview with him on a late-night talk show. Part of the discussion centered on whether during a year in which we have already suffered so much loss, we still need to give up something else for Lent. Fr. Martin shared a story about a Jewish friend from college who had questioned whether getting to choose for oneself what to give up was a true sacrifice. Together they came to an agreement that it would be the Jewish friend who would choose one food, one spice, and one candy that Fr. Martin had to do without during Lent. Noting that this is not all that he does in observance of Lent, Fr. Martin explained that the practice has continued every year and that he does not learn what he will be giving up until Ash Wednesday.
I enjoyed this little story because it told of friendship and respect between two people with differing religious beliefs and practices. It caused me to reflect upon the past year and to realize that we, like Fr. Martin, have not been in control of most of the things we have had to sacrifice. Even more difficult is the awareness that we do not know when or if we will be able to reclaim that which we have learned to live without.
Giving up something for Lent has always been a dilemma for me. I have pondered this question: “What is something important enough to give up for forty days and yet not so important that it shouldn’t be given up permanently?” I wondered whether God really cared about someone abstaining from chocolate or Diet Coke. And so, for this reason, and especially now, I welcome the challenge to add something for this Lenten season, rather than to take something away. As Reverend Janice, in a recent sermon, called upon us to do, I will pray, I will listen, and I will try to better discern and fulfill my role as a disciple of Christ and of Christ Church. No doubt I will continue to grieve the losses, especially that of worshiping together inside the sanctuary with singing, communion, fellowship, and love, but I will give thanks for life itself and strive to remain hopeful. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13