It is customary for Catholics to "give something up" during Lent as a sacrifice and a reminder of the great sacrifice that Jesus made for us. I've done this as long as I can remember. Some years I have been more intentional in my sacrifices than in others and those years have definitely brought the most spiritual growth and joy at Easter.
This years' sacrifice has been mulling around in my head for some time. Maybe even for many years. You see, if you know me very well, you know that I have a difficult time understanding why I was born into a life of affluence while others were born into poverty. Why I am fortunate to have a husband who can provide for all of our family's needs and most of our wants and other mothers must watch their children cry tears of hunger? Why do I live in 3600 square feet filled with love and laughter and others have no home and even worse, no love?
I have prayed about these questions of social justice for years. And I still don't know what God would have me do. We do the obvious, we give to charity, we volunteer, we have welcomed the poor into our home on occasion, but the truth is it just doesn't feel like enough.
John and I have discussed that if we truly believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ it means our life must look different from the rest of the world. And in some ways it does. We homeschool, we don't allow cable TV or satellite in our home, we try to open our door to those in need and we do our best to live the liturgical year. But the thing is, from the outside looking in, I would say our life looks pretty comfortable.
We have prayed for years wondering if God is calling us to do something big for him. Maybe adopt a child out of poverty, maybe go into the mission field? But the answer has always been, "no". We feel certain that God is calling us to tend to our apostolate right here, in our home, in Flagstaff. And we are learning to live the wise words of Mother Teresa, "You can do no great things, only small things with great love."
And then one day I stumbled on the following words from Tonia, at A Study in Brown. She writes,
"I have four children. When they woke up this morning, I kissed them and made them a good healthy breakfast. 30,000 other children died.
Americans spend 110 billion dollars a year on fast food.
39 billion dollars a year on their pets.
We are carrying over two trillion dollars in credit card and auto debt.
The disparity haunts me. How does a Christ follower reconcile the needs of the world with the realities of everyday life in an affluent nation? I just don't know. But we are going to spend a month trying to find out."
Her words stopped me in my tracks. I felt like I had said the very same thing time and time again. But what really got my attention was her plan. It is called Thirty Days of Nothing. Thirty days where you buy absolutely nothing that is not necessary to sustain life. Thirty days to detach ourselves from the habits of consumerism and materialism. Thirty days to empty ourselves so that He may fill us. This means no buying clothes, or books or toys. No eating out. No wine, no Diet Pepsi.
John and I decided that Lent would be a good time to give this plan a try. We are going to adapt Tonia's idea and extend it for the six weeks of Lent. So for our family it will be Forty Days of Nothing. We will keep track of the money we save and we will give it to the hungry. We will fast on Fridays (just John and I) so that we can truly understand the sufferings of the poor. And most importantly we will pray. We will pray that God will show us how we can use our lives to heal the sufferings in this world. We hope to learn the difference between a "need" and a "want" and discover where we can permanently cut back, so that we can permanently give more. I highly encourage you to take a look at Tonia's journal of her family's experience with Thirty Days of Nothing at http://thirtydaysofnothing.blogspot.com/
I am committing to keeping our blog updated with our experiences, in no small part, because I am sure I will need to be held accountable! And in the spirit of full disclosure we have a couple of prior commitments that require we spend money during the next six weeks. Sam is having an MRI and seeing his neurosurgeon in Phoenix and I am speaking at a fundraiser for Angioma Alliance which will require money for travel etc. But with these two exceptions we are going to try to find out how, as Ghandi said, we can "live simply, so that others may simply live."
We'll keep you posted.