I did NOT want to get out of bed. I’d pulled a 24-hour study and writing shift before finally putting head to pillow at midnight the night before. I stared at that hateful old clock, which was blinking 5:00! 5:00! 5:00! at me. I had a choice. I could hit snooze and roll back over for more sleep, or I could be strong and roll out of bed and into the day.
I rolled out.
I rolled out not because I am strong, but because I’d made a promise the day before on Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the season of Lent, a time of reflection, repentance, and renewal leading up to Easter. For Christians who observe Lent, it’s traditional to fast from something during this 6-week period.
My take on fasting for Lent is that if I “give up” something:
- It needs to be something that is important to me in order for it to be a sacrifice.
- It needs to have purpose. Does God really care if I give up Krispy Kreme doughnuts for 6 weeks? I don't think so, but He does care about WHY I would choose to give them up and HOW it's supposed to impact my relationship with Him. And that means--
- The space that's left by what I "do without" needs to be filled with something that enriches my spiritual life and relationship with God.
On this first morning after Ash Wednesday, I’d marked my calendar to attend an early morning church service. I’m Methodist, but it’s hard to find Protestant churches that are open on weekdays. (We should really do something about that.) So, I made my way to a small Catholic church tucked away in a patch of beautiful woods.
You know, God has a sense of humor. The scriptures were about, of all things, “choices.” You know, like the one I’d made a couple of hours earlier. The priest’s homily talked about “choices.” You know, like the ones we make every day. He talked about how those daily choices can lead us to a day filled with light--- or not. A day filled with joy--- or not. A day filled with peace--- or not.
After I left the church, I thought a lot about the choices we make every day. Oh, sure. We have big choices to make- whether to take the job or not, whether to buy the car or not, whether to enter into a relationship or not. But we also have “small” choices that we encounter all day every day.
- We can choose to gossip or hold our tongue.
- We can choose to respond IN-KIND to UNKIND words or we can smile and let it go.
- We can choose to sit numbly in front of the television or we can go for a walk, or read a book, or volunteer in a soup kitchen.
- We can choose to complain or look for reasons to be grateful.
- We can choose to criticize or we can compliment.
- We can choose to keep our eyes glued to our phone or we can turn off the phone and have a real conversation.
- We can choose to buy that dress or give the money we would have spent on it to our church or to a charity.
- We can choose to eat lunch out every day, or we can brown bag it and give the money we would have spent to a homeless shelter.
- We can worry or we can pray.
- We can try to control everything and everyone, or we can surrender control to the One who is.. well... in control.
The point is—we have choices every day in our life regardless of the season. They may seem like small choices at the time, but they can have a big impact on they way we live our lives. We hold these choices in our hands. What choices will you make today? You know you'll have to.