Do you have trouble choosing a Lenten discipline? Do you just do the same thing every year (give up chocolate or meat on Fridays or read a book of devotions)? Do you spend a lot of time worrying about your motives for choosing a discipline: Should I give up food when secretly I'm hoping to lose weight?
(I once heard a story on the radio about a guy who had a Jewish friend decide for him what he would be giving up for Lent each year so that he wouldn't be tempted to do something self-serving. But after a few years the choices got a little wonky. Cinnamon. Oregano. Banjo music or something else like that. Certainly those choices gave interesting shading to the idea of discipline.)
Then there are the "shoulds." We "should" give up something or we "should" take on something that, frankly, might not be good for us. We think we "should" because we really believe we're not good enough. We have to earn our way into God's (or someone else's) good graces. There are those who come up with a Lenten Discipline that serves as another way of piling on guilt or driving oneself into an unhealthy place of self-denial that's more like self-destruction. Maybe you seems that post going around Facebook about how maybe girls who are suffering from eating disorders should be encouraged to eat a cookie instead of going further down the path of self-harm regarding food.
I wish for us all to be able to expand our notion of Lenten discipline beyond giving up a food or beverage and/or reading a book. As our rector said in his sermon on Sunday, we need to find the gifts that God has given us - our unique gifts! - so that we can use them for the good of the kingdom. And we need to find those things that get in the way of our being fully ourselves, living fully into who God created us to be, and to put them down and never pick them up again. To shed whatever it is in our lives that blind us and gag us and weigh us down and keep us from being free to be fully alive to and for God.
Now, maybe Diet Coke or chocolate is keeping you from being fully alive to God. Maybe reading a devotional book will open your eyes to see the kingdom as God would have you see it. But I think our obstacles are deeper and broader and bigger and far more comprehensive. And yes, it's a lot harder to do the kind of self-examination that might uncover those obstacles. In fact, I suspect it's nearly impossible, especially if one tries to do it alone, and in one 40-day period. At the very least, it feels daunting.
The thing is, though, it's freedom that God wants for us. Not "just do whatever you want to" kind of freedom, but rather, freedom to let go of things that do not nourish us, that separate us from God and from one another, that stunt our growth and make us crabbed and small. Freedom to be who God made us to be, no matter what other people might think or demand we "ought" to be.
Freedom is a pretty big concept. It may well take serious discipline to walk that kind of road. Maybe you need to start small.
But don't stay small. God doesn't want you to just be a little bit free. This Lent, whatever discipline you choose, use it to throw off the stuff that keeps you small, so you can let your own unique heart and soul and mind and strength soar - into the very heart of God.