You may think of Lent as a time of deprivation, a time to give up something you love. The classic choice is chocolate, but you’ll never hear me tell you to give up chocolate! Rather than a time of deprivation, you can think of Lent as an opportunity, not to suffer, but to grow. Looked at another way, the practice of giving something up can clear an opening for God to show up in your life. Let me explain how this became clear to me over the weekend.
I got to see the painting, “Boy Fishing” by Winslow Homer, currently on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In the painting, you see a young boy in a canoe, and the front lifts as he weights down the back. The boy is twisting to the left, holding a net with a wriggling fish. The pole, and the taught line curving through the air draw your eye directly to the net. Thomas Hine, art critic for Philly.com and for the Philadelphia Inquirer, wrote about the painting on 2/23/17, “Close scrutiny of the picture reveals what a photograph can’t: The brilliance of the image was achieved as much with a knife as with a brush. The rod is really a quick, decisive gash in the paper. It is not an addition to the work, but a removal. Similarly, the surface of the water has been cut away to create bright white reflections, which he then reshaped and modulated with additional color. As with nearly all watercolors, the places where there is no paint on the paper are crucial. They are where the light is.” (italics mine)
So during Lent, whether you choose to make space for God by clearing something out, or add in a new way to focus on God, I invite you to make an effort to honor these remaining 40-plus days till Easter. Ask yourself the question each day, “What is holding me back from a right relationship with God, and with others, and with myself? In other words, what is causing distance between you and God or you and others? What thoughts or behaviors, what emotional baggage could be changed to allow God to be fully present in your life?