Every year when Lent rolls around, I’m usually scrambling for something to do for a devotion. In college, many of my friends observed the Lenten season by giving up chocolate or sweets. Some years I would join them, but I admit that I never liked this because my birthday always falls during Lent (as does my sister’s and now my daughter’s and sometimes my husband’s) and I didn’t want to give up my birthday celebrations.
As I’ve grown older and especially since I attended seminary, I look at Lent differently. I take time to reflect about what is weighing me down and draining me of so much of my energy that it gets away of things that could allow for personal and spiritual growth.
A few friends I know give up social media for the 40 days of Lent. I think that is wonderful and would definitely clear my head, but that didn’t feel like quite the right devotion for this year.
Instead I heard an idea about getting rid of a bag of stuff a day for each day of Lent. Forty days means forty bags of stuff.
Why does this devotion feel like the right one for me? I’ve been so weighed down by stuff that I find myself quick to be frustrated and run-down. I don’t approach life with energy and joy when I’m constantly having to pick things off of the floor and put them away AGAIN.
Plus, Jesus didn’t allow himself to be weighed down by stuff. He preached against attachment to material things. So there’s that.
To make this process a devotion instead of normal decluttering, I’m approaching filling my bags as a time of prayer and reflection.
The rules I’m setting for myself around this devotion are flexible. I can use any size bag, from a huge garbage bag to a plastic shopping bag from the grocery store.
I am allowing the first few of my bags to be items that I’m consigning. I really thought hard about whether or not this defeats the devotional practice part of it, but I also think that I should be a good steward with my money and time. I’m not sure I’ll have time to consign items and find things to donate to charity, and I have many items I’ve been holding onto simply to consign. This will probably bring my first three days into more than three bags, and that is great; I will still commit to finding a bag a day of other items, even if I find myself ahead of schedule.
Clothes and toys that do not sell will be donated to charity, too.
Excess craft items can be donated to my local YMCA for their child watch and after school programs. I can also check with the art teacher at my child’s school to see if she needs these.
There are recycling programs for old eyeglasses, shoes, and cell phones. I will do my best to seek out these places and have these items responsibly recycled or reused.
My daughter’s school has a clothes closet that kids who need clothes can shop from. I can donate gently used clothing here (even underwear–young kids still occasionally have accidents!).
My church has a small thrift store that sells gently used items to raise money for nursing scholarships. This is a great place to donate household goods.
As I go through old papers and notebooks, I’ll recycle anything that can be recycled.
I will allow bags of trash to count, but only if they are separate from our normal trash. If they result from me cleaning out a room and tossing things like dried up markers and holey socks, then that bag of trash can count towards that day’s bag.
My goals for this devotion are to practice doing something that I usually find difficult and boring with joy and prayer. My hope is not necessarily that these mundane chores become joyful daily events, but that I be transformed into someone who approaches all things with joy and thankfulness.
Do you practice Lent? What are you doing for your devotion this year? Any more ideas of where I can donate items?