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By Lowell Perry Jr.
Lent has been defined as a solemn religious observance in the Christian liturgical calendar that starts on Ash Wednesday and ends just before Easter Sunday. Is Lent really about chocolate bunnies, fish on Fridays, or hiding Easter eggs? Because when all of that is over, then what? Its purpose is actually to prepare a believer for Easter, through prayer, penance, charitable giving, and self-denial. Far too many of us continue to focus on the self-denial part. It has become more about what we are doing for ourselves rather than why we are observing Lent in the first place. Is giving up sweets or some other kind of food or drink going to make you a better person? Is your act of self-denial going to help others who may be in need? Of course not. In fact, we’ll go right back to scarfing down Krispy Kreme donuts and McDonald’s cheeseburgers the day after Lent ends!
What I am really talking about is living life in a transactional versus transformational manner. Focusing on giving something up for a brief season is transactional. Whereas choosing to make a lifelong change in our character is transformational. The change becomes a permanent part of who we actually are, rather than who we say we are. Do our actions line up with what our stated purpose for being is? The Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area (YCNHA) for instance, is in the business of restoring, preserving, maintaining, and promoting Yuma’s history, to ensure that future generations know more about their rich heritage, and in turn, will feel compelled to pass along that knowledge to those coming after them. The YCNHA intentionally communicates what our endgame is as an organization, along with the good work that we do. In other words, we explain to our stakeholders why we exist.
Today, this country has never been more divided. We seem less concerned about the health of the planet we will leave for our children and grandchildren, than we do about the current state of the economy. The two are not mutually exclusive. Nor is greed and tribalism part of the Easter story. One can only shake their head and ask – why? For one, being selfish, and living life as a series of transactions is actually easier. Being transactional takes less courage than looking in the mirror and asking “am I looking at a reflection of who God intended me to be?” Committing ourselves to the greater good of society, rather than the enrichment of a select few, makes us a blessing to others, and more often than not, ensures we will be blessed ourselves.
Regardless of what your religious beliefs are, ought not we as a community, spend more time thinking about how our lives and actions impact those around us, rather than talking about our own sacrifices, and chasing after only what benefits us personally? Christ was the epitome of service above self, and the example of how we can become better human beings. He who was without sin, took our sin onto Himself, and died for us, for our salvation. Isn’t Easter therefore more about why we do something, rather than what we are doing to appear religious?
Having a “why mentality” is applicable not just during the Lenten season, but all year round, and in all areas of our lives. It would say more about who we really are if we committed to reading to kids at the local elementary school once a week. Or even, volunteering to serve at a soup kitchen, food bank, or ministering to a neighbor or family member in need. I maintain that those simple actions would speak louder than any words about who you are, as well as your understanding of what Lent is all about.
My challenge to you then is to think about something positive you will intentionally do to transform yourself, and thereby the world we live in. Our children and grandchildren, deserve no less than our best. Following the examples Christ set will without a doubt, bring out the best part of who God intended you to be. This admonition is not just for those who are Christians, but is simply common sense. Can we all pledge to make a conscious decision today to do more to strengthen our character and connection to each other, rather than just giving up potato chips for a few weeks. And do this and other random acts of kindness to please God, not for the praise of man. Isn’t that what is most important?