This Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, is the first day of the season of Lent.
What is Lent? Lent is a season of the Christian Year where Christians focus on simple living, prayer, and fasting in order to grow closer to God. ~UpperRoom.org
Growing up, I associated giving things up for Lent as something my friends who went to the Catholic Church did each year. I learned about Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the season of Lent as a time of preparation for Easter, but the idea of giving up something for Lent was a foreign concept. I only grew more confused when as a teen my friends stopped eating pizza or drinking soda or eating chocolate during Lent. What was the relationship between these foods and Lent?
Over the years, I’ve come to recognize there is more to this season of Lent. As a time of self-reflection, each of us has a very personal way in which we can focus on God. So maybe giving up some well-loved food can have meaning if prayer or some other God centered activity occurs in place of that food; but I don’t see this as a way for me.
Last year I decided to seriously look for a way to participate in Lent, and I found an article by Phil Ressler, 40 Things to Give Up for Lent: The List. The list included great ideas like over-commitment, apathy, negativity, complaint and distraction. But before I settled on one of those, a friend posted a link suggesting de-cluttering as a challenge for Lent. I knew immediately that participating in the 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge was what I needed to do to observe Lent. Each day I would focus on one space to eliminate stuff that was no longer serving any useful purpose. And while some of the bags contained items to be hauled off to the landfill or the shredder, many more bags were filled with items to be given to others. Bags of clothing, shoes, dishes, cooking utensils, books, games, and sporting goods were donated to our church’s Tuesday Morning ministry, the Ocklawaha United Methodist Church’s Thrift Store, the Friends of the Library and Goodwill. Every drawer, closet and cabinet was emptied as part of this process. Only those things that were being used and needed were kept. The cars’ glove compartments and trunks contributed to the 40 bags. The more items we bagged, the more we found to give away. Way more than forty bags…a trailer full of furniture for newlyweds, a bookcase for a classroom and another for a nursery and furniture for a nephew’s first apartment.
Luke 12:15 “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed: a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
Filling 40 bags in 40 days may seem simply like a new name for spring cleaning, a way to get rid of the excess, the unused and unwanted; but to be honest the excess distracts from our relationship with God. Lent is not just about giving up something; it’s about doing something…something to make space for God. Discarded items serve as reminders to be less materialistic and more generous. The act of de-cluttering is good for the soul. It creates space in your home. Space in your mind. Space in your heart. Space for reflection.
This year, I’ll fill another 40 bags in the 40 days of Lent to make more space and look for ways the excess in my life can be a blessing to others. It’s a small start, but it’s a start.
Make space for God: 40 Bags in 40 Days
Today when I finished writing, I picked up my phone and clicked on Twitter to find the following:
2/4/16 tweet from Pope Francis @Pontifex: God wants to live amidst his sons and daughters. Let us make space for him in our hearts.