The tradition for Christians is to give up certain things during the 40 days of Lent. It often included meat or sweets and today includes such things as alcohol or chocolate or social networking. In more recent times, the emphasis in many churches has been to take on something for Lent, such as a new spiritual discipline or an activity working with the poor. This year I suggest that we give up something within ourselves that is interfering with our relationship with God and others.
If there are little girls in your life, you are probably very familiar with the best animated feature film Frozen, inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, and its Oscar-winning song “Let It Go.”
In the movie, Elsa (the Snow Queen) discovers she has the power to create snow and ice and she doesn’t know how to control that power. She is devastated because of the pain she causes and is afraid of her abilities, so she locks herself away from those she loves in order to avoid hurting them. After her sister Anna (based on Gerda in the original story) seeks her out and wins her over with love, Elsa has the conversion experience of letting go of her guilt and fear. She will no longer be limited by her own powers. So she sings her song of triumph:
Let it go, let it go, I’m never going back,
The past is in the past.
And I’ll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone.
Two common human characteristics that are closely related are worry and guilt or self-condemnation. Like Elsa, we keep trying to be perfect. Worry seems to plague most of us and feelings of guilt attack us and lead to more worry.
I invite you to try the following for this Lenten season:
For any worry or any self-condemnation that enters your mind during these 40 days, simply say:
“I’ll worry about that after Easter!”
You are not saying that you will never worry about it, but you are putting off the worrying. That’s rather like giving up desserts for Lent – you’re not giving them up forever, just for 40 days. After Easter you can decide whether you like your life better with or without worry!
I recommend this Lenten practice because I tried it one year and was amazed at the results! I gave up self-condemnation – “Oh, I shouldn’t have said that!” or “Why didn’t I reach out to that person?” Instead I would say to myself, “I’ll think about that after Easter.”
What I discovered was that giving up self-judgment resulted in my being less judgmental of others! Try it – you’ll definitely like it!
- If there is a medical symptom that you should pay attention to, get the help you need; don’t put it off. Don’t be in denial about it, but after you get help for it, postpone worry till after Easter!
- If there is some other worrisome situation where your action is needed and required now, take that action (such as doing your taxes) and then let go of the worry.
Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. (Matthew 6:34, The Message)
Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. (Philippians 4:6, The Message)