To give up or not give up, that is the question. Especially during Lent. Making the decision to “give up something” for Lent is supposed to occur on or around Ash Wednesday. It’s kind of the deadline for decision – like making a resolution before January first or open enrollment for insurance plans. I wasn’t going to give up initially. But my pastor changed my mind with his explanation of why people give up things for Lent.
In a nutshell, it’s about eliminating things that stand between you and deeper faith and a stronger relationship with God.
I think the roadblock is different for everyone. Some people can’t or won’t admit to their fears or struggles and do everything they can to drown them, suffocate them, dull them, or ignore them. Myself included. They take up dangerous hobbies…drink too much…eat too much…devote themselves to someone or something else so there’s no time to confront the problem.
Giving Up dovetailed perfectly with my quest for TRUST. As I said, I had no plans to give up anything for Lent. But at the Ash Wednesday service (the first I’d attended in 20 years), as Pastor Bob talked about addictions and other things that run interference with faith (which thereby ran interference with my ability to cultivate TRUST), I realized I had something to give up.
An addiction to information, which fed my need for control.
My “need to know” basis is 24/7/365. I figure the more I know, the more prepared I’ll be and I’ll know exactly what to do. I’ll be able to anticipate a half dozen moves ahead like a chess player. I’ll have all the answers. I’ll be able to see the triumphs and train wrecks coming and make everything work out the way I want.
The way I want…not necessarily the way it’s supposed to be. Or even in the way that’s best.
I had something to Give Up. Let’s just call it The Crutch. I’d known on several levels I needed to give it up, but kept talking myself out of it. “You’re overreacting.” “It’s harmless. Don’t sweat it.” “Maybe you should give up coffee instead.” (At which point, I laughed like Cruella de Vil.) After viewing The Crutch as an atypical addiction and realizing this was counterproductive in my quest for TRUST, I found the determination to give it up.
When I finally took that step, there was a surge of inner strength and knowledge that I’d done the right thing. That was on March 10th. And not a day goes by where some kind of mental wrestling match doesn’t take place. It’s like going to the cupboard where you normally keep the cigarettes and remembering, “Oh, yeah. I’m supposed to be quitting.” For a while, it was stressful. I don’t like ambiguity, uncertainty, and most of all…sitting on my hands and doing nothing.
Journaling takes the edge off, and I’m still gathering information…but it’s through answering my own questions. Weeding through the superficial and getting at what’s important. And I have been rewarded in small ways for my perseverance.
Without The Crutch running the show, I’ve had more space to be receptive to spiritual guidance and answers. Where I had been running about clamoring for information so I could have certainty, I now have a modicum of stillness. I am less worried, less stressed, and more authentic. And I’ve been made aware more than once that God’s got my back, He knows where I am, He knows what I’m worried about, and I have to TRUST my own steps. When I realized it, I almost laughed out loud from joy.
Anne Lamott, author and Salon contributor, wrote: “The opposite of faith is not doubt. It is certainty.” I think I get it now. Faith is FOR doubt. You don’t need it if you have certainty. But who has certainty 24/7/365?
So…I give up.