Making Room for Peace
It was cold and it was snowy, but this week my family and I got outside to practice one of our favorite traditions: cutting off all the branches of our Christmas tree, cutting the trunk in half to make a cross, that we put in our living room throughout the season of Lent. Yes, Lent is upon us. Lent is a season of fasting and spiritual preparation that many Christian churches and denominations participate in as they anticipate Easter Sunday.
On a more popular level, Lent is often associated with the phrase, “What are you giving up for Lent?” Whether or not you practice Lent, we’ve all thought about this question before. Is there anything in my life that I need to give up? A habit, a job, a relationship?
The practice of self-denial or giving something up is radically counter-cultural. In our culture of two-day free shipping, Instacart, and fast fashion, our thoughts are often occupied with the next thing we can buy. It’s not very often that we think intentionally about what things we should give up.
The phrase “giving up” sounds like we are losing out on something; like it will be to our deficit. But what if by deliberately finding things to give up, you can find the air you need to breath in and experience life more fully and wholly. What if there is something to gain by letting go?
Do you remember the last time you cleaned out that closet that collects everything you don’t have a spot for? When you first open the doors, it can be overwhelming. The sheer sight of it can make you want to quit. Then, as you pick up each individual item, you begin to find reasons why you shouldn’t get rid of it: a gift from a relative, a souvenir from a memorable vacation, etc. Your sentimentality becomes the roadblock to cleaning the closet. However, when you persevere and finally begin to clear things out of the closet, then you can take a step back and think to yourself, “Wow, I have so much space!”
Sometimes our lives become like a cluttered closet. We don’t have room to move or even space to breath. We are overwhelmed by the troubles of life. Especially after the year we’ve had, I’m not sure the closet door can even close anymore.
I wonder if the Lenten season can provide you an opportunity to begin clearing out the closet of your life? I wonder if there are any habits you’ve picked up this past year that you need to give up in order to find the space to breathe in the fullness of life?
Here are three ideas to get you started:
Give up Grieving Alone: in one way or another, loss has affected us all this year. Have you shared your grief with a friend or have you been keeping it all to yourself? Grieving alone is tempting, but compounds isolation. Allow trusted friends to hear your pain.
Give up Complaining: sure, we’ve had lots to complain about this year, but have those complaints festered within you and caused you to feel consumed by them? Voice your complaints, then let them go. This might just give you the room you need for gratitude.
Give up the News: we all want to stay informed, but the news can be a source of anxiety for many of us. Setting aside times of the day that are news free can help you reconnect with habits that provide peace.
These ideas may or may not apply to you, but I encourage you to take time to reflect upon how the pandemic has affected your daily life. How has the closet been filling up? What needs to go? What needs to stay? What’s stopping you from doing the cleaning? As you do this, I pray that you will be filled with peace.
Peace be upon you,
Chaplain Travis Jamieson