Want to experience God’s love?
Give up pizza and chocolate
I never really fully understood the purpose of “giving up” something for Lent. As a child, growing up in the Catholic religion, I just simply did it because I was told I was supposed to do it, never really grasping the intent of this long-held ritual. However, I guess in some way, from the perspective of a child, I approached it as a personal challenge just to see if I could do it, but always wondering why God would want me to give up pizza or chocolate, which were my two favorite “things” as a young child; and, therefore, the two things that I must forgo during Lent. Because, as we all know, in order to truly be in God’s favor, you must give up something that you love, some object or experience that would cause you to suffer in the absence of that particular thing. And as a very small child, pizza and chocolate had grown to be my “loves” in the universe of my short and tender years.
Fast-forward now 40 years later, while I understand the history behind the Lenten season, I still remain unclear as to the purpose of giving up “something you love” in the 40 days that fall between Ash Wednesday and Easter…or at ANY time. At this point in my life, it has become abundantly clear to me that I experience more joy, more peace, and more of a knowing Who I Really Am when I align myself with that which is serving me and to change what is not. Why would God desire, or actually command, me to remove experiences from my life that bring me joy? Must the path to God be traveled on a road of suffering? Why have we imagined a God who manipulates love in such a way?
Lent is not the only example of how we, as a society, have bought into an idea of forgoing and suffering as a path to The Creator. There are Yogis who live in the Himalayan Mountains who devote their existence to a life of renunciation, abandoning material comforts and even food in their pursuit of spiritual enlightenment. It is commonly known that Catholic priests refrain from not only sex, but they resist even entering into a romantic relationship with another based on a belief that it will allow them to better serve and please God. People who observe the Jewish and Seventh Day Adventist faiths abstain from eating pork and shellfish because of beliefs they hold about what God wants. Those who belong to the Jehovah Witness faith will not celebrate birthdays, nor will they even receive a blood transfusion in medical emergencies, because of beliefs they hold about what God wants. Many women in the Pentecostal faith will not cut their hair because of beliefs they hold about what God wants….just to name a few.
Now, an idea that I could more readily embrace would be engaging in 40 days of placing intention on the things that foster our ability to realize and actually experience our Highest Selves and our ever-present connection with God. I can remember no time in my life where the deprivation of something I love has led to an experience of knowing God. I can, however, recite numerous occasions where allowing the things I love to flow into my life abundantly most certainly and vividly created a deeper understanding and knowing of Who I Am and what my relationship with God is.
This idea of suffering has long been misunderstood and misused as a way to “win” or “earn” God’s love. We are pained to see the visible suffering in the world around us, but we are quick to voluntarily suffer in an effort to seek approval and acceptance from the one source of unconditional love that we actually have. Why do so few embrace an idea that we do not have to do anything to receive God’s love? Is that thought too frightening? Is that concept too easy? Is that idea too risky? Would we place that expectation on our own children in order that they may experience our love?
After all, we are making it all up here, aren’t we?
Why are we making it up in a way that feels so hard?
(Lisa McCormack is the Managing Editor & Administrator of The Global Conversation. She is also a member of the Spiritual Helper team at www.ChangingChange.net, a website offering emotional and spiritual support. To connect with Lisa, please e-mail her at Lisa@TheGlobalConversation.com.)