And What Can I Give?
By NANCY PATRICK
As we approach the season of Lent, many people contemplate “giving up something” (sacrificing) to represent the sacrifice Christ made for his disciples. I don’t always participate in Lent, but I’ve thought about it more this year than usual—probably because of the tremendous hardship and involuntary sacrifice 2020 has inflicted on so much of humanity.
My retirement and pension afforded me the ability to pay my bills and live my life without major disruption. Most people around the world did not enjoy such luxury.
As I think of observing Lent this year, I ask myself, “What can I give? What can I sacrifice to honor Christ and his sacrifice for me?” This year demands so much more than giving up chocolate or coffee. It demands a sacrifice of myself, an acknowledgement that something like a pandemic reveals the basic humanity shared by all of us.
That I can afford to buy my groceries, pay my utility bills, and stay in my home convicts me of my unearned position of privilege during this crisis. As I see lines of people waiting for boxes of food, medical tests, and vaccines, I search my soul to find what I hold back—what I need to release to God.
One of the first hindrances in my life relates to my attitude of “poor pitiful me.” In spite of the circumstances I described earlier, I have allowed myself to sink into a funk. In December, I chose to have major surgery that requires difficult rehab. I find that I feel sorry for myself. My knees hurt, I have no stamina, recovery takes too long!
What a selfish attitude! Instead of feeling thankful for a successful surgery, I find myself whining like a brat. During Lent, I will work on this attitude as I try to see my good fortune during this time of great hardship for so many.
I also find another major fault in my spiritual closet—the need for control. I have always known that I tend to doubt others’ abilities, fear their failures as well as my own, worry over circumstances that do not belong to me, and feel angry and frustrated when things do not turn out according to my plans.
As I examine these issues, I again recognize a bothersome trait that keeps peeking around the corner at me. That trait—selfishness—must rank first on my Lenten list of sacrifices. I should have shed that juvenile behavior years ago, yet I find myself still struggling with it.
Unfortunately, for many, selfishness— in the guise of fear— continues to reign as we compare ourselves and our situations to those around us. The Bible teaches that we should not fear because God in all aspects of his “omni” manages the universe in ways beyond our understanding.
If I believe this, why do I constantly watch news programming about all the social issues in the world? Depending on the channel, “this” is true; however, on another channel, “this” is fake news or an alternate reality.
I used to worry about terrorism, meaning from foreign enemies. Now I worry about domestic terrorism. What is happening to people? I’ve read more than one warning on Facebook (another thing to fear) that all the social protests regarding race, politics, economics, and morality signal the end of the world approaches.
As I write this, my mind makes lists of all the injustices I observe around me. I see people jumping the line to receive their COVID-19 vaccines before those who should receive them. I see some people targeted by authorities based on their race, gender, political affiliations, and socio-economic status.
These injustices anger me because of their unfairness. I want to fix the problems and right the wrongs, but I feel powerless. I ask myself how a Supreme Being can allow such inequities and atrocities. Where can I find an answer? I need to know how to sacrifice my selfishness, anger, pride, anxiety, and fear as a gift to Christ for his selflessness on the Cross.
As I ponder these spiritual dilemmas, I recall a gift I used to present to my senior English students. Written in 1927 by Max Ehrmann and simply called The Desiderata, the piece offers a concise guide to a successful life (Desiderata Original Text). I found that it provides answers to my spiritual questions.
The basic premises relate to the purity of the soul:
- Listen more than you talk and avoid judging others harshly.
- Associate with humble, honest people who accept others without comparison.
- Enjoy and appreciate whatever gifts or talents you have. Avoid jealousy of others’ abilities or possessions.
- Avoid hypocrisy. Be yourself and allow yourself to love and accept love.
- Don’t worry, fear, or imagine things beyond your control.
- Grow old gracefully and graciously. Life is a great gift.
- I will quote the last paragraph because the beautiful language deserves to retain its own words. “And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”
With these words, I will enter Lent, surrendering my self-pity and prideful need to control as I pursue a pure lifestyle that recognizes my own arrogance in contrast to God’s love and provision.
Nancy Patrick is a retired teacher who lives in Abilene and enjoys writing