3 Audacious Lessons from Lent (and Mardi Gras)
by John Richardson | February 5, 2013
In an online forum, one person recently commented about their annual rituals at Lent. Then, they asked the question, “What do you plan to give up this year?” In response one person said, “This year I plan to give up all moderation and self-discipline.”
I think they intentionally missed the point.
Can we be honest about something? It’s hard to give up the things that we are accustomed to having.
The Little Festival Down South
When I was in high school, my family lived in New Orleans. Not only is New Orleans famous for Jazz music, Bourbon Street and a recent Super Bowl blackout, but it also has ties to a little festival known as Mardi Gras.
In case you have not been to Mardi Gras (which is French for Fat Tuesday), it is an in-the-streets party for two or three hundred thousand people. And it is not limited to one day of the year. Even though the name of the festival is “Fat Tuesday,” the parades start running on the weekends an entire month before Lent begins. Then, the final week of the festival, there are parades crisscrossing the city every single night.
Mardi Gras may be the closest thing we have in the U.S. to medieval parties thrown by kings and queens. And – similar to those medieval parties – there are basically no rules. The only standing rule (aside from a few random things that will land you in jail) is that you are not allowed to judge the looks or actions of those around you.
So, Fat Tuesday – and the weeks leading up to it – is a celebration of the “you-may-give-this-up-for- Lent-tomorrow,-so-enjoy-it-to-the-fullest-today” mentality. It’s also New Orleans’ way of saying to the world, “It’s hard to give up my stuff.”
It’s Hard to Give Up My Stuff
Watch any young child and you will see that the desire to hold onto and protect our personal belongings is woven into us from birth. We are born with a desire to hoard – not give; we are inclined to live with clinched fists, not open hands.
Potentially one of the deepest lessons of Lent is the realization that we need to learn how to regularly let go.
1. We need to learn to let go of our money.
We need regular points in life to remind us that money is not neutral. It is either a master or a servant. Ironically, whatever I call “my money” typically ends up being my master. And whatever I freely give away can become God’s servant…used for His glory.
2. We need to learn to let go of our time.
I’m all for planning and protecting certain time elements in life. But there is much to be said for following God’s agenda each day. Do you remember what happened to Jesus as He was going to heal a dying child? Someone touched the hem of His robe. So, Jesus paused and spoke with the woman who had touched Him. He gave her His time and afforded her the dignity she deserved as someone created in the image of God.
3. We need to learn to let go of getting our way.
Sometimes it’s good to let other people win. At regular points, it’s healthy to have someone else stand on our shoulders so that they can make it to the top. Jesus called this the key to greatness. He said, “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26-28).
It is always hard to give up our stuff, but it is also true that the benefits of letting go far outweigh the drawbacks.
Those are my immediate learning-to-let-go thoughts. What about you? What are some things that you would add to this list? What has Lent taught you about letting go? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
For further info on the connection between Lent and generosity, see "How is Your Church Preparing for Lent."
Add a comment
February 14, 2013 - 06:44:02 AM
reply to comment
February 13, 2013 - 10:50:24 AM
reply to comment
Explore and share
Signup for digests of our blog, videos, news, and library (sample)
Find us on Facebook