What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?
Here we are on the cusp of Lent, a season often thought of as a time of sacrifice and deprivation. The world already thinks we are crazy for it, because in its’ view more is always better and you need MORE to be happy. But what I am about to drop on you is going to make the world see you as even crazier, because I’m about to tell you a sneaky truth: you aren’t giving up anything at Lent, you are gaining.
I think we must examine the way we think of this time of year in our Church. We think of Lent as a time to give up something, which by that thinking, makes us feel we are depriving ourselves, but is that actually what we are doing? Deprivation is by definition a “Damaging lack of basic needs.” By that understanding, we begin to understand that we CAN be deprived of air (which is obviously something we need to live), but if we stop eating chocolate we aren’t ACTUALLY going to die, so we aren’t being deprived. In the second example, what we are doing by giving it up is shedding an unneeded luxury, something we have, perhaps, told ourselves we “need” to be happy or complete. We may even be walking away from something that, up to that point, we have depended on (rather than God) to make us feel more happy and complete. (That is us buying into the world’s lie that we need _______ (fill in your own blank) to be happier or more fulfilled.) So, what we are doing is not depriving ourselves of a need, but shedding a potential barrier between us and God. After all, God wants us to depend on him in times of stress, and if we are depending on something the world provides then we are not leaning where we should.
This means, in part, Lent to me, is not a time of giving up as much as it is a shedding of chains and barriers that keep me enslaved to the world’s view of happiness and peace. God not only provides for the perceived lack as we shed from ourselves these things we do not really need, He gives to us in abundance by telling us exactly what to plug into their place.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
In this we are being taught that if we shed what the world considers happiness, not only are we gaining our freedom and our souls, we are being told we can feast in abundance on whatever is noble, pure, lovely, admirable, and praiseworthy and in doing that we will have the VERY PEACE OF GOD. If we embrace this during Lent, then we realize all that we can shed are the illusions we are holding onto of peace, things that keep us enslaved to poverty of spirit. We are giving up smoke and mirrors to embrace truth, peace, and love. We are giving up the temporary to embrace the Eternal. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?
There is a catch.
The catch is that if we want to be truly free, we can’t just live it during Lent. We can start it then, but we have to make this truth an intrinsic part of our existence-every day, in every way, for as long as we live. In order to do that, we must truly see that we are shedding (leaving behind) unneeded, ungodly, unworthy things. We are not being deprived. We are taking possession of the Eternal Life, Truth and LOVE of God.
Ask God what you should shed during Lent, and do not be afraid to answer the call. The truth will set us free, and we will be free indeed. (John 8: 32)
Food for thought and prayer.
Here I am, Lord, send me!