It was only when Jo Neary, the very lovely vicar who lives in Broadwindsor, Dorset, tweeted that she was going to forego Twitter for Lent that I was reminded about the whole sackcloth and ashes thing. I went into panic mode as I tried to think about something I could give up, something I could sacrifice as proof of my Christian value.
My lack of forward planning spoke volumes as to how my religious fervour has been doused over the years as life and living has taken on a whole new desperate persona, and when Ash Wednesday arrived I realised I had once more forgotten about the whole thing and felt quite guilty that I still lacked any form of sacrifice.
I straight away went to confessional aka Twitter, to try and find some inspiration as to what I might give up and other than wine and chocolate, there wasn’t a great deal to choose from. Of course I could copy Jo and forego social media, but being a freelance writer working from home, I think if I gave this up I may also be in danger of simultaneously surrendering my sanity.
Thus I was no further forward.
That was until I listened to Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4 when Reverend Lucy Winkett, rector of St James’ Piccadilly revealed the story of a group of Dutch people who might be selected to travel to Mars. Now aside from the lunacy of this project, what Rev Lucy did highlight was that Lent was about venturing into the unknown, going somewhere you knew nothing about and facing the possibility that the person who comes back may be very different from the person who went out, if they manage to return at all; and that’s when I decided the whole ‘giving-up’ for Lent idea has perhaps become too focussed on us giving up something we enjoy in an attempt to make us feel good about ourselves as we prove we can do without; we should perhaps look at it from a different angle and rather than renounce something we enjoy, and let’s face it, there are now so few pleasures in life it seems a bit harsh to give one of them up, what about a cessation in behaviour pattern the result of which will help others?
Here’s an example: how often have you been walking somewhere and noticed an empty drink bottle on the floor that someone has carelessly dropped? What do you do? I’ll have money on it you ignore it and walk past it. Or an empty crisp packet that is blowing along the pavement, that you may even tread on?
So here’s the idea: surrender your usual reaction, stop, bend down and pick it up. When you find a rubbish bin, pop it in.
Just imagine if we all did that what a difference it could make in 40 days.
So go on, if you can’t face giving up chocolate or that glass of red, for the duration of Lent, change your behaviour and who knows, perhaps you will decide it worked so well you continue to act that way…as Rev Lucy says “discovery and adventure…an expedition inwards…”
Here is Lucy’s full speech, listen from 1 hour 47 minutes in http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b052j5n5