The Other Side of Lent
Lent. It’s a word most frequently associated with a solemn religious observance in the liturgical calendar that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends approximately 6 weeks later, before Easter Sunday (thanks Wikipedia). And each liturgical year I give up something that I truly enjoy for 40ish days. I view Lent as a yearly opportunity to challenge myself and hey, even kick a bad habit of two.
My past Lent “give-ups” have included sweets, fast food (attempting this in college was so much harder than I ever anticipated), alcohol, swearing, and one year I even attempted to give up Facebook. I hate to admit it, but I failed pretty quickly on the latter two. Regardless, it’s always been a personal choice that I make to try to sacrifice something that I either get enjoyment from or something that will alter my routine. And I use the word sacrifice loosely here, it’s not like I’m giving up my right arm or anything.
Lent tends to be a really easy time to give something up because so many other people are in the same boat. I essentially have a built in support system of friends, family, and co-workers who have all committed to the same goal, just in different forms. It’s far easier to stick to your guns when you know others are doing the same. And sometimes it even becomes competitive and I find myself motivated to not give up because I don’t want to be the person who failed. Who knew that a little friendly competition could really impact my willpower?!
Up until very recently, that’s what Lent meant to me. Give something up, tell people about it, hold yourself accountable, and don’t fail. But then I read an article that highlighted the other side of Lent. The side of Lent that isn’t just about skipping cookies and cake for what seems like forever or depriving yourself of those late night Taco Bell cravings. The side of Lent that makes you stop and think about the actual meaning of sacrifice. This Lent could be about giving up so much more than insignificant amenities and conveniences. During these 6 weeks, I could give of my most valuable resource – my time.
It’s a strange concept, but hear me out. I’ve been so focused on giving up tangible, easily trackable and moderately avoidable things, but what if I challenged myself to give up my time? Something that I’m sure many of you, just like me, cherish. I could volunteer more. I could make time for those friendships that need nurturing. I could spare the extra 10 minutes in the morning and take my dogs for a walk. I could stay up a little while longer to talk to my husband who often gets home from work late in the evening (sidebar: we’re nearly halfway done with tax season!!!). I could skip my Saturday afternoon nap and use the time in more valuable ways. I never really thought about it, and I hate to admit it, but there are a few areas in my life where I’m cutting corners and my time is where I’m the most guilty.
This concept of giving up my time actually excites me, which is a first when it comes to my outlook towards to Lent. I feel like this will be a rewarding Lenten season, one in which I establish a new norm. I look forward to giving of myself and my time to the people, animals, places, and organizations that need it more than I do. I understand that there are only so many hours in a day, but do I need to spend as many of my waking hours watching TV or scrolling through social media? I know that by giving of my time I’ll be pushed to make better use of it, but in the process I know I’ll be gaining a lot.
For those that are willing to follow Lent in a non-traditional manner, I hope you can do some self reflection with an open mind. Think about how you spend your time; I’m sure there are things which you can scale back on in order to give more time to the ones that truly matter. What are some areas that you’ve been neglecting? Are there relationships that need some TLC? Do you have certain skills that could help an organization accomplish their mission? Do you have a passion you haven’t been pursuing? Just think about it, that’s all I’m asking. We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow, so I challenge you to make the most of your time today. If only until Easter, prioritize the value of your time and recognize the good it can do for the world around you.