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“What are you giving up for Lent this year?” he asks. I am taken off guard as I haven’t given it much thought. I can’t believe it is that time of year again.
Though I am not Catholic, I find other people’s religious traditions meaningful and useful. The idea of “giving up” something for Lent appeals to me as I often consider my long list of shortcomings and vices. I have found that I carry around a basket full of these in my head. A basket heavy with all of my weaknesses that need to be addressed.
As I think about my offering for Lent this year, I start to rummage through my basket and immediately find myself shoving my greatest weaknesses to the bottom, allowing the smaller and perhaps less significant ones (if there is such a thing) to appear at the top.
First, I come across a bottle of soda. Coke to be exact. In my head, I pick up the glass bottle and stare intently at the bubbling contents inside. “Sure, giving up Coke for 40 days would be do-able,” I think. I’m all about setting attainable goals instead of shooting for my loftiest aspirations. With that in mind, Coke is a serious contender this year.
But I set the soda back down and run my fingers across the box of See’s candy just beneath it. “Sugar. That would be a little more painful, but again I could do it. A few days of headaches, and then I’d be off and running with a boat-load of energy, I am sure.”
I move on from the box of candy only to see the corner of my cell phone peeking out from the middle of the pile. Darn. I thought I’d shoved that deep enough. Yes, I could do without the cell phone for 40 days, but, really, that wouldn’t be safe, now would it? And my kids need to get a hold of me, and it’s pretty much become the home phone, sooooo, that strikes it quickly from consideration.
I rummage through a few more items…the book which holds anything unkind that might slip from my lips…the megaphone through which I get my children’s attention when they are ignoring me. I even pass the computer, which has woven its little wires intricately around my heart and mind and basically holds the keystrokes to most of my life. Yep, that too gets to stay for Lent.
Like I said, it’s a heavy basket I’m carrying.
And just like that, I know exactly what I will be giving up for Lent.
I’m giving up the basket.
That very heavy basket.
No, not its contents. Its very existence.
The basket that I carry reminds me every single day of where I fall short, of where I need to improve, of where I am failing in the “perfect life” I’ve created in my head. I choose each day to carry an imaginary basket full of reminders which weigh me down and keep me from enjoying the beauty of the real life I am living.
This Lent I am dropping the basket. No more self-deprecating comments (no matter how funny they are), no more shunning of compliments from others, no more beating myself up as I see the successes of others in their mothering and their womanhood. No more dwelling on where I fall short or how many pounds I’ve gained. I will use the lift I receive from shedding the basket to bless those around me. I will celebrate the good.
This year, I’m discovering that Lent isn’t really about going without something, but about handing off something. It’s not enough to hang up the basket where it can easily be picked up again. Lent can be transforming when I hand that basket over to Someone who has the capacity to not only hold it, but to take it and to transform the weight of it into something light and beautiful. Something that lifts instead of weighs down.
Yep, this Lent I will be handing off my entire basket.
He’s ready. And so am I.
QUESTION: Do you carry a heavy “basket” around with you, filled with thoughts that you are not good enough?
CHALLENGE: During this Easter season, take some time to pray, meditate, and shed the heavy weight of perfectionism and self-doubt.
Photo courtesy of Rachel Hixon