Today is Ash Wednesday which is the start of Lent in the Christian church. Lent is a time of sacrifice, prayer and alms-giving. In the Catholic Church we are asked to sacrifice something in our life for the period of Lent. As a kid I always gave up chewing gum. I loved chewing gum and not having any between Ash Wednesday and Easter was tough, but it was a simple way to keep the meaning of Lent and Easter in the forefront.
In the last few years, I have not been very thoughtful about sacrificing something during Lent. We do not eat meat on Ash Wednesday or on Fridays during Lent which is not really that big of a sacrifice. However, the last few years I have seen this 40 Bags in 40 Days Lenten “Challenge” floating around on the interwebs.
The physical purpose of this challenge is to get rid of 40 bags of stuff in your house over the 40 days of Lent (Lent is longer than 40 days but apparently Sundays don’t count which is something I wished I had know when I used to give up gum). The bags of stuff can be donated, if still useable, or thrown in the trash.
When I first read about this, it seemed a bit self-centered to me. I would get all of the benefit. Cleaning up the clutter in my house would equal me having a clean house. This did not seem appropriate during the season of Lent when we should not be focused on our own pleasure and ego. This seems a bit like giving up dessert during Lent not for the self-denial but because you really want to lose a few pounds.
I spent some time thinking and praying about this and came to the conclusion that for me this is a good Lenten sacrifice. I tend to hold onto material physical stuff. I become attached to things. The Church often asks members and clergy to shed material items which is what this challenge will require me to do. In addition, in the process of letting go of the physical that no longer serves me, I may let go of the more transcendental that no longer serves me. This may be long-held expectations or beliefs or goals. If I let go of the pants that no longer fit, possibly I can let go of that expectation of what I think of as the most attractive size. If I let go of those books that I no longer want to or have time to read, maybe I can accept that it is alright to use my free time in the way that is most enjoyable for me and not always in a way that is for self-improvement.
(We are having our house painted. I feel like I am living in the house from E.T.)
In addition, for some items such as barely worn clothes or shoes, I will be donating them to others that need them. While doing so, I intend to pray for those that receive them, that the items will serve them, and in some cases give them a little joy.
I also think in doing this project, I will appreciate even more how many blessings we have. The truth is we have way too much in the way of material goods while others have very little.
My husband and I have decided to do this as a team effort this Lent. It seems even more meaningful that we are taking it on together. An important part of our relationship that sometimes gets neglected is our faith. We met in a church small faith group many years ago so it seems appropriate that we approach a Lent sacrifice together.
You will find a lot of websites out there that have rules and a printable for this challenge. However, it really is your journey to undertake in the best way that you see fit. I intend to try and do a little bit every day but I also know that more time will be devoted to it on the weekends. We have to clean out our closet. I have too many clothes and my husband has shirts hanging in the closet that I have not seen him wear in the 15 years I have known him. The closet will be a weekend project. Smaller things such as the junk drawer in the kitchen can probably be sorted out in 15 minutes on a weeknight.
(This closet has way too much stuff)
We also intend to define “bag” how we see fit. For example, we have an extension ladder that we ended up with when my mom moved. For the last 5 years it has sat outside against the back of our garage never used. We are getting rid of that and counting that as one “bag.” In this case it really is the process of shedding ourselves of material possessions in a thoughtful and prayerful way.
If you are interested in doing the 40 bags in 40 days let me know. We can support ourselves through this process. I know that this process will not be easy for me. Letting go of stuff is hard for me even if it is no longer serving me. And no matter how you choose to participate in Lent in another way, I wish you prayers. And now I am off to buy lots and lots of trash bags. –June
“Everything in life has its own time. There is time to celebrate and there is time to mourn. This is the time for reflection and transformation. Let us look within and change into what we ought to be.” — Aaron Saul