Living Beyond the Shadows
Each year it never really matters if Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow or not, February is a dreaded month. The month is often seen as the lack-luster time sandwiched between the scenic, snow festivities of January and the hints and promises of spring expected in March. This year, February is dealt a double whammy of Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. That dismal forty days of no fun.
However, understanding the potential of Lent can make the journey of Lent much more than a dreary doing-without-something time. While fasting is an important pillar of Lent, try thinking of fasting a little more abstractly. Even small children can understand practicing certain virtues as a way of strengthening them. We know people will give up chocolate, sodas, or snacks, which is extremely useful if we are still struggling with a resolution from a month ago. This exercise is made more effective if the meaning behind it is explained: that sacrifice is something we all face at one time or another, that sacrifice helps us understand what Christ did for us, or that sacrifice helps us to be stronger in our commitments.
Thinking abstractly also opens up more choices. We can fast from being impatient with our siblings, family members, or co-workers. We can fast from using sarcasm. We can fast from being judgmental, or intolerant of others who are different from us. Conversely, while taking something away, try putting something in its place. Fast from social media; add more scripture. Fast from sarcasm; add more acts of kindness. Even if you still give up seconds, snacks, or candy, add the money saved to a rice bowl fund for those in need.
The greyness of winter and the dread of Lent can be made so much better by giving, helping, and being active in our faith. Lent has always been a time of self-reflection, but time passes faster when we are engaged with one-another. Phil can go hide in his den for another six weeks, but as Christians we can look to February as another new beginning.