Carrot sticks, a cup and the cross

Lent begins this week. Did it sneak up on you like it did me? It happens every year, yet somehow, it surprised me with its arrival this year.

I’m never quite sure what to do with Lent. When I was a kid, friends who attended church always talked about what they were giving up — usually something they really liked like chocolate or pop (soda now that I live in Pennsylvania). As I got older, I noticed the increase of Friday fish fry events, and when my husband and I were in our early dating years, I caught his excitement for McDonald’s fish sandwich specials during Lent.

Even after I gave my life to Christ, I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. Give stuff up? Read the Bible more? Sacrifice to the point of pain like my Savior? Pray more? Nothing special?

Since moving here and my husband being in seminary, we’ve come to appreciate the beauty of the church calendar — the seasons, the holy days, the celebrations. We’ve worn ashes on our foreheads, something I thought I’d never do, not being Catholic or mainline Protestant and all. We’ve read special devotional collections focused on the season. We’ve committed to sacrifice in different ways.

I don’t know yet what this season will hold for me. I want it to be meaningful and a time of dedication, but I’ve yet to think about it deeply. Wednesday’s coming soon.

Here’s what I do know.

One night this week, Isabelle, our 4-year-old, made a cross out of her carrot sticks at dinner. She was so excited. “Look, Mom! I made a … I made a cross!” I asked her what the cross meant, why it was important, and she said, “Because that’s where God died.”

For Lent, I want both excitement and remembrance. The season begins solemnly and ends triumphantly. I want to remember the cost and rejoice in the victory.

As I was washing dishes another night, I spent a lot of time cleaning plastic straws with cotton swabs. I’m not sure I will ever buy a cup with a plastic straw again because they’re impossible to clean. Even with the cotton swab, I found I had to close one eye and focus on the hole to pick out the junk resting inside the straw, sometimes just out of reach.

By closing one eye, I blocked out of my view the rest of the dishes, the kitchen, the kids and saw only the straw and the food particles lodged in there.

Life is full. I feel like I always have a million things to do and maybe I accomplish two or three in the course of a day. I start something, then I get interrupted or distracted, and I have to come back to it later. Sadly, my spiritual life is like this sometimes, too. Opportunities to grow in my faith are endless, and if I start something new, I’m likely to be interrupted by life or distracted by worries and fears.

Maybe what I need to do this Lenten season is to close one eye to those things — the things I can’t control or change, that seek to divert me from my purpose and mission — and focus in on the cross.

Twice in recent weeks, this passage has confronted me. I may make it my Lenten theme.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Throw off what holds me back and trips me up. Run with perseverance on the path God has for me. Fix my eyes on Jesus.

How that manifests in my life these next weeks, I’m not sure. But it’s a start.

How about you? What does Lent mean to you? How do you commemorate the season?

May it be a time of blessing and renewal of your faith.

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One thought on “Carrot sticks, a cup and the cross

  1. I’ve been a mainline protestant for most of my life. I love the beauty of the church seasons and they’ve become more meaningful to me in the past several years. I still struggle with Lent. Maybe because too many people use it as a diet plan or just give something up and don’t do much thinking about the rest of it (and I’ve been both of those places, too).

    But I think I’ve landed in a similar place: Lent for me has become a time to focus. When I give something up, it’s because it’s going to bring my focus to Christ and his kingdom more often and more fully.

    This year? I’m giving up multi-tasking. I’ll be writing about that today or tomorrow. I want to focus more completely on the things I’m giving my attention to. But pray for me–because it’s going to be hard!

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