After two weeks of Lent, the cross-shaped ashes on our foreheads have fallen off. When we look in the mirror, we no longer see the smudge of ashes, claiming us in such a unique way. We remain, though, on the journey of Lent, which began on Ash Wednesday.
Even though the cross is no longer visible, its impression is lasting. It is one of the reasons we might have chosen to give something up for Lent. This is not a return to a rigid, ascetic form of faith, restraining our lives. It is not a commitment to an unbending discipline, promising to produce a faithful life. Instead, the giving up does not restrain us; it sets us free.
Over the last two weeks, I have read about many ways people are giving something up during Lent. In an abbreviated list of suggestions for these forty days, it says:
- Don’t buy anything you don’t need.
- Throw away forty things for forty days.
- Give up gossiping.
- Give up soft drinks.
- Don’t eat out.
- Replace thirty minutes of television with reading, reflection, and prayer.
- Do not criticize or complain.
- Give up caffeine.
We can debate the merits of each suggestion, but each practice is not valuable for what we give up. It is valuable for the room it makes. We give something up during Lent in order to reclaim what it means to make room in our lives for something more.
Faith is a journey of making room! We make room for God. We make room for our deepest calling. We make room for the church. We make room for the stranger. We make room for discovery.
Lent calls us back to the foundation of our faith. It begins with ashes, where we return to the practice of repentance, remembering that God always makes room for us. Forgiveness is God making room for us!
As we journey from Ash Wednesday to Holy Week, let us make room for more. If we have given something up, every time we think about it, let it remind us of the room we are making in our lives for others and for God.