This year, in the weeks leading up to Lent, I was beset by the same conundrum many of us face: what should I do for Lent? Normally I give something up, usually a sweet of some sort or a beloved food stuff. One year I even gave up tea for Lent, something I may not be repeating again. But this year, as my struggles to draw near to God are beset with more obstacles than ever, I realized that my old staple of giving up cookies or soda would not do. While making a sacrifice even of the smallest kind is admirable and has served me well in the past by reminding me of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice, this year was different. I felt a distinguishable barrier between myself and my Lord.
I had to take a closer look at the things that were pulling me away from God. And when I looked I realized part of the problem was just that: things! I have so many of them, most of little value but still taking up valuable space not only in my home but in my heart. I’ve always been something of a pack rat, not willing to throw something away that can be repaired. But over the years it has proved to be too much. I realized that the stuff I owned was beginning to lead me rather than me leading it. There is nothing wrong with material items in and of themselves but when they begin to take over your thoughts and preoccupy your time, it is then that you have relinquished control of your mind and heart to such material possessions.
This control mainly comes from not donating something because I might need it somewhere in the unforeseeable future. An old art set that I haven’t used in years was found beside my desk, neglected and forgotten. Yet I still struggled with the idea of donating it – I may want the supplies for projects in the future! I can give away the case, but certainly not the pencils; they’re far too useful! It was in this moment that I began to fully realize the hold these things had on me. I had not used these supplies in years; they may bring untold happiness to a burgeoning young artist and yet, here I was rationalizing why I should keep it! I knew then how important it was that I give it away.
I had allowed these material possessions and the acquisition of material possessions to guide me through my days, rather than my Lord. And it should hurt to give these things away. If it doesn’t hurt, most likely I have not put real thought and devotion into it. Most likely, if it’s easy to give away, this is mere surplus, something I would have tossed anyway. If it is difficult to get rid of these items, it means I’m on the right track for these are items with too much hold on me, too much influence over my life.
Jesus had little by way of material possessions. And anything that he would have owned is not mentioned in the Holy Bible because it was of absolutely no importance; it was only ‘stuff.’ And as I move through Lent, slowly donating, returning, or recycling items from my space, I realize how unimportant these material possession really are. When we get rid of things, we make more room in our lives for God. We benefit others through our donations. We make some much needed space in our cluttered lives and cluttered minds.
So with this Lenten season and the upcoming Easter season, try giving up and giving away some of those ‘things’ that have a hold on your heart. If you find yourself distracted by maintaining and acquiring materials goods, take a step back and remember to whom you truly belong. Your heart belongs to God, not to material possessions. Remember to own your things and not allow them to own you!
Nicole DiRado is a graduate student living in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.