As we began Lent, many asked me, “What are you giving up for Lent?” This reminded me of a similar question they asked a few short months ago, “What is your New Year’s resolution?” I don’t know about you, but for me every January brings a rash of New Year’s resolutions. And every Lent, I consider what unhealthy habit could I eliminate (even if it’s just for 40 days) that would make me feel better, that I might even stick with after Easter.
Some years I have been more successful than others and other years I have been completely “off the wagon” within a matter of days. After all, who really wants to give up ice cream or pizza?
Last January, I read an article in our local paper about New Year’s resolutions and the author was posing a unique perspective on the difference between resolutions and opportunities. She wrote, “As one ponders New Year’s resolutions, one might conclude that new resolutions should be given less priority and more attention should be given to new opportunities. Despite the word ‘new,’ new resolutions are often based on what we already know and have a past focus that may or may not change in the future. New opportunities, on the other hand, have a forward focus and are guaranteed to be new because they are yet to be revealed. Opportunities have an element of surprise.”
This has applications for our Lenten disciplines as well. Instead of thinking about what we are “giving up”, there is an opportunity to do more or something we’ve never done before.
Opportunities are revealed by God and stem from the newness granted in Christ. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Just as spring is a time of renewal for our environment, so should this Lenten season offer an opportunity to reach for something deeper and transformational. So, I am setting aside those resolutions that reflect what I already know and where I’ve already been… and instead looking for where I might grow if I seize on opportunity!
Jenny Michael, of Pensacola, Florida, is the churchwide president of Women of the ELCA for the 2011-2014 triennium.