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GIVING IT UP FOR LENT

Updated: Feb 27, 2023


You may or may not be a Christian.


I’m not here to judge you!


If you are a Christian, you may or may not observe what the Christian Church has calendared as its liturgical season of Lent.


I’m not here to judge you!


If you do observe Lent, you may or may not have given something up as a symbol of self-sacrifice in preparation for the April 9th celebration of Easter.


I’m not here to judge you!


If you have given something up during this Lenten season, it may or may not involve any physical, material, tangible object or visible behavior.


I’m not here to judge you!


But, yes. I happen to be a Christian who does observe Lent by giving something up in order to free myself for the blessing of Easter’s celebrated resurrection of Jesus Christ. I am repeatedly moved by Paul’s admonition to the Romans, which goes like this: "I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, on the basis of God’s mercy, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable act of worship” (Romans 12:1).


But, no. I happen to not give up any food, beverage, or other outward object involving my own bodily sacrifice. What I choose to give up each and every Lent is quite different. It is the inward subject of my own sinful behavior. It is a piece of my body’s own brain, a portion of my mind’s functioning that is most faulty. Neuro-science labels it “the Limbic system” surrounding the brain’s Amygdala. It is this small portion of my brain that, for the sake of our body’s survival, reacts to all things “different” as if “dangerous” and, therefore, assumes a need for fight/flight. This portion of my brain has no capacity to reason, no capacity to believe or accept based on facts, truth, or actual evidence in reality. It functions to make split-second reactions to the external world by assuming the worst when something new arises, and signaling my body to produce cortisol and other stress hormones for fight/flight survival.


Before I try to unpack this any further, let me direct our attention to what amounts to Part B of Paul’s admonition to the Romans, which goes like this: “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).


I ask myself each Lenten season this question: What is wrong and unacceptable and imperfect in my own mind’s thinking that could better be given up and let go of this year in preparation for my Easter celebration?


Let me try now to unpack this question and share more about my own Lenten experience of bodily sacrifice.


My body’s own mind makes faulty assumptions that lead me to commit sins of omission (flight) by avoiding that which is not dangerous after all, or to commit sins of commission (fight) to solve a problem that may not even exist in the first place. Unless I give up and let go of these wrong, unacceptable, and imperfect assumptions, I have no room for the resurrected Christ within my brain’s Higher belief system.


My sins of omission are triggered by fears of different people, places, and things that lead me to avoid as if somehow they are automatically dangerous as assumed. By, for instance, fearing change or that which is new and unknown or uncertain, I avoid countless opportunities to do all the good I could do in this world.


My sins of commission are triggered by fears of problems that either are not of any danger, not mine to solve, or are actually NOT problems. Within my brain’s Limbic system, my assumption is that which is different is therefore dangerous, that which is possible is therefore probable, and that which is probable is therefore a problem for me to solve.


Let’s try to think together of an example of how such sins of commission might work.


Have you ever had the experience of thinking that something you wanted in this world was actually a need? Have you ever thought of a desire as if it were a demand? Something you had to be, do, or have or else you’d be damned unhappy???!!! Have you ever fought to attain something you later realized wasn’t all that worth fighting for? Or, even worse, have you ever done something wrong based on having wrongly assumed it was right and even necessary at the time?


I have.


Many times my sins of commission have been based on fighting to achieve some desire to be, do, or have something I wrongly assumed was somehow in demand.


The 12-step programs call this kind of thing “stinking thinking.” And rightly so.


This is the kind of thing I am trying to give up and let go of again this Lent so I can make room for my best possible celebration of this year’s Easter Alleluia!


By sacrificing this part of my body’s own mind, this portion of my brain’s power to make sinful decisions in my life (fight or flight that causes actual harm, if only to stress my body out unnecessarily), I’m free to make far better decisions based on the Higher part of my own brain, the Frontal Lobe that does have exhaustive capacity for reality testing, evidence gathering, and rational decision-making. It is in the giving up and letting go of this lower brain’s control over my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that I am free to experience resurrection with Christ.


Christ Jesus, by the way, is that One we follow during Lent who faced down his own fears of those who had the power to wrongfully judge and even crucify him. Tempted as he was to assume that he must use fight or flight to escape such judgment by those who so grossly misunderstood him, I believe Jesus actually sacrificed in his own body that piece of his own mind that wrongly assumed the worst case scenario. I believe Jesus gave up and let go of his mind’s faulty assumption that death, though new and different in his experience, was dangerous. Giving up the faulty assumption that those who could kill the body could kill the soul (see also Matthew 10:28). Giving up the faulty assumption that the body’s withdrawal pains in death would not end soon enough.


And even more, I believe Jesus in his bodily sacrifice upon the cross gave up the human mind’s faulty assumption that when others misunderstand, misjudge, and mistreat us, we are in any way guilty as charged. Rather, upon such judgment and even punishment, we are officially exonerated by the Higher Power whom Jesus called “Father” and are set free by Easter’s eternal authority. As in: “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).


So what does this mean for me, and perhaps for others who may or may also choose to follow Jesus in this Lenten season?


For me it means, I’m not here to be judged by you!


I am free from anyone else’s misunderstanding, misjudgment, or mistreatment of me if I’m willing to let go of my own faulty assumption that such a thing has any lasting power to define or render me guilty as charged. If I can give up my fear of others’ judgments and let go of my need for fight or flight in such matters, practicing this bodily sacrifice one day at a time and one moment at a time from now until Easter’s own Alleluia, then I will follow Jesus off my own cross and out of my own tomb. If I can think of Lent outside the box (or tomb) like Jesus may have done.


I’m giving it up for Lent.


“It’s Friday but Sunday’s coming.”

(the Apostle S.M. Lockridge)


I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, on the basis of God’s mercy, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable act of worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

(the Apostle Paul)


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