by balfeo - Tuesday, February 28, 2017
It's here. Fat Tuesday! The last day before Lent commitments begin. The day I eat chocolate like its going out of style, because for me, it really is. For tons of Christians, Catholic and otherwise, Lent is a time to cut out and re-assess bad habits. It forces us out of our normal habits, so we turn less to our regular comforts and (hopefully) more to God.
Fat Tuesday is for savoring chocolate and debating what exactly we are giving up anyway. It can be easy to let it turn into a spiritually-driven diet plan, but I want it to be more than that.
There are a lot of takes on Lent. I try to think of it as a way to step away from something that keeps me from connecting from God. Taking a behavior that builds distance from God and replacing it with something that brings us closer to Him. Watch less TV, read more Bible. Don't use food as a comfort, seek out community instead. Stop throwing garbage at the neighbors, plant more flowers. You get the idea.
So this is the perfect time to face down some of the habits we have all let build up, which society sees as normal, but which take our actions and our thoughts away from Him every day.
Right now, our culture thrives on a consumerism that is out of control. We shop. We eat. We look for "deals" on shopping and eating. We buy bigger houses to fill with all of the stuff we are buying. We watch TV about stuff. We talk about stuff. Our life has a lot of stuff.
You might be thinking- "B, that's not me. I am not materialistic. One trip to the store for what I need, and I am done. I don't think about it."
Sorry, friend. That's not great either.
Every single decision we make and purchase we spend on has moral consequences and a spiritual toll.
If your stuff was made by someone treated like a slave or risking their life for your junk, that comes at a spiritual cost. If it sits collecting dust or is quickly treated as waste, that comes with a spiritual cost. If your stuff creates pollution, poisons land or water, or needlessly strips the Earth of resources, that comes at a spiritual cost.
In other words, many of the decisions we make every time we shop can hurt our effectiveness as stewards of this Earth. This is the first task God gave humans. This Earth is a gift he gave us, and it is our duty as Christians to take care of it, to be the best stewards we can be.
If we shop without thinking, we risk failing at our jobs as stewards and making destruction where God created beauty.
I am not suggesting we all try to set up our own Eden's without electric or stores (I am not naked romping through the woods any time soon). But it is possible to make almost every decision, from how we eat to where we shop to what we wear on our feet with our task as stewards in mind. It's a big task, but Lent is the perfect time to start.
Here are some ideas of totally different, but transformative ways to approach Lent this year. These are meant to help you brainstorm something that will work to you and will help you consider a habit you know is keeping you from being a good steward. Pick something that you can actually do, and that you think you can learn something from.
Give Some Things Up
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me" Matthew 25: 35-36
You already have way more than you need, and someone else could use what you have. Why not give something up literally this Lent? Here are a few ideas.
40 Bags in 40 Days- This challenge is getting all kinds of attention. Take 40 vessels and fill them, cutting out the clutter. At the end, donate what you collected. Awesome, easy, and a great way to help others.
Donate 40 Items for Lent- Pick a room. Everyday, pick out something in your house that you can give. Kitchen sstuff or bedroom pieces can be put to good use by someone who will love it.
Seek Out a Particular Charity and Collect for Them- Have a lot of coats and shoes? Why not check in with a nearby homeless shelter? And ask friends to join in!
Join or Start a Buy Nothing- Make giving a part of your regular daily routine. Read up on this coolness and finally take the leap.
"Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves" Matthew 21:12
Jesus made it very clear that spiritual spaces and business should not mix. If we want to make more room in our lives for Him, chasing out our own shopping might not be a bad place to start.
Only Buy Groceries and Gas- Just. Don't. Buy. Anything. Could you just stop shopping for forty days? Give yourself a couple of grace passes for emergencies, but otherwise, just stop.
Buy One Item a Week. And Make it All Ethical- You have 1 hour to make 100 decisions. Or you have 1 hour to make 1. It's clear which decision will be better made. Slow your decision-making down so much that you an focus on finding the most responsible choice rather than just the one you like the most.
Stay Off Your Shopping Sites- Could you avoid Amazon for 40 days? How about Zulily. You know where you browse and spend. Quit it for a minute and see how it feels.
Buy Less Meat and Eat Less Meat- Red meat, especially beef, is a huge culprit in damaging the environment. Catholics have been doing Meatless Monday on Fridays for a long time. Maybe it's time to join in or even step it up?
Reuse and Recycle
Give Up One Plastic Item- It becomes more and more clear that plastic is a huge enemy to our bodies and environment. If you usually drink your water out of plastic bottles, invest in a glass reusable bottle and only use it! At first it will be a pain, but before you know it, it will feel normal.
Don't Buy Food with Plastic Packaging- Could you go 40 days without buying one piece of food wrapped in plastic? This one is TOUGH, but if you are feeling brave, you could do all kinds of good, eat way healthier, AND learn so much. You'd have to do without fruit loops. That's the trade off.
Say No to Straws- Plastic one time use straws are terrible for the environment. Say no to every straw for the whole of Lent. Before you know it, you will have picked up another good stewardship habit!
Finally Give up those Plastic Bags- It's time, friend.
Compost- If you aren't composting, consider trying for Lent.
I love Lent, and I hope you have a season to remember an reconnect. I will let you know what exactly we decide to do in about 12 hours when we finally decide.what are you giving up for Lent?