When is Giving Up Stuff Really a Lent Sacrifice?
For several years I gave up chocolate for Lent. The idea of going without chocolate for 40 days seemed like a fairly good way to “suffer” as I was called to contemplate Jesus’ suffering.
It seemed to be a perfect way to give up something that I could sincerely offer up during my prayers and as I spent time in reflection.
That was until our priest cautioned us about choosing to give up something we knew we ought to give up because it would “benefit” us; when, instead, what we should be doing is giving up something that would not be a “benefit” to us.
Gee, I remember thinking, chocolate really has fallen into the “this-is-good-for-me-to-give-up category” because I began to consider the “benefits” of losing a couple of pounds and being a bit healthier for the effort.
Now what? I wondered.
In the middle of all this I also tried some things from the it-isn’t-about-giving-up-as-much-as-it-is about-making-changes category. That included the year when I committed to daily rosary and the year when I wanted to make sure I said “one good and positive thing” each day to my family members.
None of these Lenten experiences stand out as ways that made the value of sacrifice something that is real, tangible and personal.
So each year, as Lent approaches, I seek to know more deeply what it is that I should be doing, or not doing, for Lent—for God. A few years ago it was no different. Ash Wednesday loomed on the calendar and I began asking: “What will it be this year, Lord? Let me know, please, and I will obey.”
At this point let me interject that I had been attending an Ignatian spiritual retreat which met a couple of times a month and the fruit — the graces — from the exercises had been abundant, to say the least.
So off to a dinner party I went, with Ash Wednesday less than a week away, and my request to know what Lent sacrifice the Lord had in store for me being freshly made and asked of him. I shouldn’t be surprised, then, that the first conversation I had upon entering our guest’s home is with a woman I greatly admire — a Facebook friend and a real-life friend — who said that she was giving up Facebook for Lent!
My heart immediately responded with recognition that this is my answer.
Facebook, unlike chocolate, won’t be good for me to give up; it won’t benefit me one bit. Frankly, just the opposite is true — it may be detrimental to my business of publishing books and sharing news of author happenings and various events.
Indeed, this true sacrifice was made known to me in the last days of the contest in which one of our titles was in the running for a “Best Catholic Book” award. If it won, not being on Facebook and LinkedIn and writing articles meant I couldn’t take advantage of the social network to use this win in a very significant promotional way. A win would be something that just begs for tons of Internet attention and fanfare. And the good Lord was asking me to walk away. That, I said to myself, is the ultimate sacrifice!
You see, I had worked 60-70 hours a week for the four or five years and was now seeing that it was paying off. But in the recesses of my heart, I knew I was being called to leave the Internet super highway behind during Lent and spend that time with God — in reading his word, in adoration, in Mass, in the Gospels by way of the rosary.
I had previously tried to tell myself that being a witness meant embracing this new social media and that I was doing God’s will; but I was only giving myself an excuse to stay connected to the Internet.
So with this contest, it became crystal clear to me what my sacrifice was to be that Lent; and I also knew that is wasn’t just about me removing myself from Facebook. I wouldn’t be writing articles during Lent either; I’d be removing myself from some key Internet activities so that my time with God would become more abundant, and definitely more personal.
God was calling me and I couldn’t ignore him. What would this mean for my business? I had no idea; but I wasn’t worried. It all belongs to God anyhow.
Each of us can be replaced in a heartbeat on the Internet — no matter how popular and followed we may appear — but each of us is completely irreplaceable to God so that’s where I want to spend my Lenten time: In his care, in his arms, in his presence, in his word.–CNA
Cheryl Dickow is an author, publisher, speaker and TV presenter.
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