There’s something about this image doing the rounds on Facebook during the New Year that really resonates.
I certainly fell into the Festive camp on Christmas Day, but as I surveyed a mini-tsunami of wrapping paper after the gift giving, I also found myself wondering yet again about both excess and sloth. Even our cats (who move as little as possible under normal circumstances) hardly bothered to roll over between Christmas and New Year. In the midst of all this, it’s pretty easy to lose the image of a child born in a backwater, growing up beside the poor and living out his call to share bread with strangers. Even more challenging is translating the sentimentality of the Christmas season into something solid and life changing all year round.
So here we are approaching February, wondering where January went, and furiously attempting to keep track of New Year’s resolutions that probably involved at least one of the following: cutting back on excess, paying more attention to our inner lives and perhaps thinking more consistently of others.
This year the season of Lent is just around the corner starting February 10. Typically it’s the time in the Christian calendar to reflect on our spiritual lives in a quest for growth, forgiveness and connection. These forty days are a God-given opportunity to recalibrate: heart, mind, spirit.
With this in mind, I’m planning to take up a Challenge through UnitingWorld’s Lent Event – attempting to live simply, reflect more deeply on my faith and act to support people working hard to free themselves from poverty. For me and my family, it’ll be a chance to start the year right by thinking about what we eat and why, including all the add-ons (snack foods, the occasional take- away including lunch at work, desserts, alcohol) and assess our reliance on technology. We’ll donate the money we would have spent on all this to a couple of projects I’ve seen first-hand creating change in the Pacific, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.
We’ll also be aiming to spend time reflecting, meditating and praying, reading and learning about our faith as well as the faith of our partners in Asia, Africa and the Pacific. I’m often amazed by how easy it is to see people in these parts of the world as ‘needy’ and underestimate their creativity, spiritual depth and sheer courage.
These people include Charles, who recently told my colleague Steph that he wanted “many of you to come here, to Zimbabwe, to see what we have done and how happy we are!”
He was referring to the small business he’s built with a number of others, breeding layer chickens and selling eggs at market. The profits are helping his family thrive in a part of the country so parched that without this income, Charles and his wife would be down to one meal a day.
This puts our forty days of simple living into stark perspective. But my hope is that as we take up this challenge, we’ll not only be contributing to the survival of Charles’ and his community, we’ll learn more about our God, our world and ourselves.
If you want to get involved, check out www.Lentevent.com. Resources including an App (download it from the App Store or Google Play), videos, worship resources and activities for children are available right now, and are all free to download.