Me and Lent have a checkered relationship to say the least. Here are some of the things that define my history with this season of reflection and self-denial:
- I grew up going to a Roman Catholic elementary school. Perhaps that in itself is enough.
- I don’t like eating fish. On Friday or any other day of the week.
- In my mid-20s I decided to observe a fast during Lent in which the only beverage I drank was water. It was going fine until I wound up in the hospital with a kidney stone.
- I LOVE Cadbury Creme Eggs. Avoiding chocolate at this time of year is not an option.
There was a time when I may have gone on a rant about Lent being unnecessary.
If I’m honest, though, it probably comes down to the fact that, more than any other part of the church calendar, Lent expects something of us. That’s a hard pill to swallow, and I chafe at the notion as much as anyone else. We human beings do a good job of resisting the power of Lent. Often we reduce it to something that we do (either enduring the misery of no Starbucks or adding a spiritual façade to whatever self-help endeavor we decide to take on). Sometimes we look at such practices and use them as an excuse to ignore it altogether.
A few years ago, I read a reflection written by a friend who tried something different and intriguing. She decided to give something away every day during Lent. Each day she found an item and gave it to somebody. She challenged herself to make sure it was more than the clearing out of junk that inspires yard sales and trips to the thrift store. While some of her exercise did focus on simplifying and living with less, she made sure that some of the items she gave away were items that were important to her. Some items were also chosen specifically for the persons they were given to. In addition to letting go of possessions and simplifying, the Lenten practice enriched her relationships with 40 people through the conversations and interaction—some simple and some quite involved—that resulted from her giving things away.
Such an idea would surely enrich each of our lives during the Lenten season that begins this week. In this digital age, perhaps we might even add a twist that would engage the social media-driven world that we all live in. As I invite you to observe a holy Lent, I invite you to observe a Craigslent by giving away items, most likely to people that you would otherwise never have contact with, over Craigslist. You can take the idea and approach it in your own way, but here’s an example:
- Identify items to give away. Perhaps 40, perhaps 20, 10 or 1 per week. Taking the opportunity to downsize or de-clutter is welcome, but will hopefully invite you to reflect on your level of materialism. Choosing some items that are meaningful to you would add a level of investment to this project that I am certain would lead to more profound reflection.
- List the items on Craigslist or some other online outlet where people can find them. As you list the items, include a few sentences about what you are doing (for example: “I am observing the Christian season of Lent this year by giving away 40 items to 40 different people. My hope is that doing this will provide me with the opportunity to pray and reflect as I give things away.”).
- If you want to focus on selecting the people you give items to, you could do this over Facebook, Twitter or any other social network that you participate in.
- Pay attention to the interactions that are made possible. Some will be small, some may be surprising! Allow the moments of relationship that occur to enrich you Lenten experience.
- Spread the word! Tell me and others about your experience. Share your comments below. Share them over your own social networks. On Twitter, use #CRAIGSLENT.
- Have fun…and have a blessed and holy Lent!