In recent days, many of my conversations contain the words, “What are you giving up for Lent?” What AM I giving up? Whatever it is, I’m fairly certain I’ll take it back on Easter Sunday. Let’s say I choose candy and sweet treats. Well, forty days from now, M & M’s will still look, feel, and taste like M & M’s and there’s no reason I shouldn’t eat one. Or two, maybe six. And while the residual “deny myself” will linger, past experience tells me it’s not long for this world.
But what if we change the words from giving up to letting go? I propose that Lent is more about letting go and Jesus is our example. Just read the Gospel of John, Chapters 14-17, the Farewell Discourse. Spoken to the eleven that remained with Him at the Last Supper, Jesus first tells them He’s going away to the Father but will send the Holy Spirit to guide them. He then bestows peace, and encourages them to love one another. He warns of persecutions to come and trouble they will encounter as true believers. Jesus prays for love, that his followers “may all be one as He and the Father are one” and that “the love with which the Father loves Him may be in them.”
In essence, Jesus prepares them for letting go of their human relationship with Him, the way of life they’ve traveled, and the closeness they’ve enjoyed so that a new dimension of faith can be born. He places the entirety of His earthly mission in their hands, these bumblers and sinners, and men of brave heart. He asks of his disciples that which is both simple and extremely difficult: let go of the familiar and hold on to the promises from the Greatest Friend they’ve ever known.
This Lent I hope to let go of a two-year breach in a relationship, caused by deep pain not within my grasp to understand. It will require more sacrifice than a cut back in sugar and more work than walking past the candy dish empty-handed. But I know it’s time for me to forgive and Lent is the grace-filled time in which to try.