What are we giving up for lent?

From the time we were children, our first question for Lent was
often, "What are you giving up for Lent?" Giving something up for
these 40 days is a custom that, when we were younger, helped us
enter into the season with a sense of purpose and a greater
awareness.

As adults, we might want to consider looking at Lent in a deeper way. We are probably much more settled into our behaviours and patterns of life and often giving up something is where we begin -- and end -- our reflections on Lent. It can be very easy to say "I am giving up chocolate" or biscuits and cakes. But without more thought, it can become simply a way of showing God how strong we are. It is more about us than any conversation with God.

Lent isn't simply about us "giving up" something. The real grace is
when we recognize that Lent is a season in which God wants to
give us something. God wants to help us transform our lives and
make us freer as people -- not just freer with God, but in the way we live our lives and love our families.

It is much easier for us to simply choose something to give up--
then we can dismiss Lent! "I am giving up TV for Lent." I won’t be having any snacks .during the day." We give it up and exercise our willpower for 40 days to prove to ourselves and to God that we can do it. And at the end of Lent we can easily return to what we gave up.

But this year perhaps we should reflect and ask the deeper question: What is God inviting us to change this Lent? How do we know what God might be stirring in us?  Where are we feeling uncomfortable with the choices we are making? With the things we have done? With the habitual ways we respond? God will be speaking to us in those small nagging moments of discomfort in our hearts.
Asking what we would like to change about ourselves this Lent requires a little reflection. What pattern of behaviour in our lives needs changing? What do we need more of in our lives?  Patience? Unselfishness? More loving behaviour towards our family and friends?

But each of us can think of something that gets in the way of our
being loving and self-sacrificing. Too often the ordinary conflicts,
divisions and difficulties in our family life result from simple
selfishness on our part, we choose to defend our opinion. We choose to use things we know about our family and friends against them. We choose to hurt them.

The results of that behavior are never good and always divisive.
We can imagine a Lenten practice in which each of us would tell
members of our family - those whom we have most offended in
these ways -- that we are sorry and ask them to help us, to work
with us, to bring more unity and peace to our family life.

We can ask: What would it cost us to change this behaviour? What
would it mean if we didn't walk around our families acting grumpy all the time? What if we decided to be much more loving and patient with
them this Lent?

What if we did decide to "give up" something really destructive in our lives, like some on-line friendships?, playing too many violent computer games, texting all the time .  As we reflect, we might realise that changing particular ways we live is coming to us as a call from God and we don't have to do it alone. God is moving our hearts to reflect on these changes and God will remain faithful and help us to stay open to the grace being offered to us for change.

We need help. It may be something that we don’t want to change or
acknowledge. We don't think we can change it. But that's where talking to God can make the difference. We are not doing this alone; we are doing it with God.

In asking God for help, we might look at one of the many healing
gospels, like Mark 2. 1-12. in this story, a group of friends carried a mat with a paralysed man to Jesus, who was teaching inside a house. So many people crowded around the outside of the house that the friends were unable to get the mat inside. So they went up to the roof and moved aside the tiles and lowered their friend on the mat to Jesus below. The words to this gospel say that the friends on
the roof had "broken through" the tiles to lower their friend into the
house for healing. Their breakthrough led directly to the healing.

Where do we need a breakthrough? What is the barrier that keeps
us from asking for healing? In our own lives, we need to break
through our denials, defensiveness and our unwillingness to look at ourselves.

Discovering what the barrier is in our lives is critical. If we
don't know what the barrier is, these weeks of Lent are a great time
to reflect upon it. When we identify the barrier, we have made the
breakthrough. That's when Jesus can heal us of it.

Why is this a good Lenten penance? Because it gets our attention
where we live every day. It allows God's grace into our souls and into
the place where our real life exists. That's where Jesus stands with
us every day, waiting for us to be lowered from the roof so he can
touch us and heal us.

So this year let us all give Lent a little bit more thought and make ourselves ready to receive what it is that God wants to give us.