Chocolate. Smoking. Social Media. Coffee. Soda. Fast Food. Swearing. Alcohol. All things that people typically give up for lent. Last year was my first year experiencing and observing Lent. I gave up dessert. I thought about doing the same thing this year, but after going to the Ash Wednesday service at our church I decided to go in a different direction.
At the service we had four people share brief reflections of things that they were giving up for Lent. There was a reflection on worry and control, one on hatred, one on self-reliance and one on fear (I actually shared the one on fear). Then we had prayer stations set up with a prayer response to each reflection. At each station there was some tactile way of engaging with God in prayer. For example, at the station connected with worry people would confess their worries to the Lord as they dropped an Alka-Seltzer tablet in some water. As the tablet dissolved they were instructed to give up their worry to God and take trust with them.
In my reflection, I shared how often times I am consumed with fear that my life will amount to nothing and that I will be a nobody while desperately wanting to be a somebody. But as I listened to all the other reflections I realized that my desire for recognition and acclaim not only affected me with fear, but also with worry and control, self-reliance and hatred. As different speakers were sharing I could identify with what they were saying in connection to my desire for significance and admiration. My pursuit of being a “somebody” often leads to worry and anxiety because I fear I will be seen as a failure. And in turn, I’m tempted to subtly manipulate people to like me. It also causes self-reliance to spike because I think I’m the “master of my own destiny,” and have to make this happen on my own. And hatred can slip in when I see other people attaining the things that I desire to attain.
As all of these thoughts and realizations have been coming to the surface of my mind, yesterday I received this quote from a good friend.
There is much emphasis on notoriety and fame in our society. Our newspapers and television keep giving us the message: What counts is to be known, praised, and admired, whether you are a writer, an actor, a musician, or a politician. Still, real greatness is often hidden, humble, simple, and unobtrusive. It is not easy to trust ourselves and our actions without public affirmation. We must have strong self-confidence combined with deep humility. Some of the greatest works of art and the most important works of peace were created by people who had no need for the limelight. They knew that what they were doing was their call, and they did it with great patience, perseverance, and love.
– Henri Nouwen
My prayer is that I can surrender and give up daily my desire for fame and recognition in hopes that worry, fear, self-reliance and hatred will go with it. I also pray that I will come to a greater realization that God is enough, that Jesus is my portion and that I need words of affirmation from no one other than Him. And lastly, that as I leave behind all of those things I would take trust, dependence, love and forgiveness with me this Lenten season.
What are you giving up for Lent?