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John Eggers: Lent: Don’t give up, try taking on renewed purpose

Lent was always a dark time when I was young. I remember going to those Wednesday night Lenten services where my grandfather served as pastor. It always seemed so cold, so dreary and so long.

The drive home also seemed longer even though we just lived a few blocks from church. My father’s 1950 Bel Air Chevrolet never warmed up in time on those cold February and March evenings. I must admit that even though I looked forward to Easter with its Easter vacation and newness of life, I didn’t look forward to Lent.

My grandfather would be dressed in his solid black robe and he climbed up into the pulpit to deliver what was usually a dark depressing sermon in a dimly lit church. He was a good preacher and he made sure we knew the meaning of repentance and sacrifice. We would be ready for Good Friday.

It was at this time when I began to hear about people giving up things. “I think I will give up all sweets during Lent,” my mother would say. Someone else was going to try to give up smoking and someone else would try to give up being angry. The darkness of Lent brought a need to sacrifice.

Sacrifice was also a big part of the Muslim holy season of Ramadan where people would fast from dawn until sunset and refrain from consuming food, drinking liquids or smoking. Many of my students in Iran who were Muslim at the International school where I taught would participate in this ritual. Going the whole day without drinking or eating for growing boys and girls was not easy. I’m sure many of my students did not look forward to Ramadan.

Sacrificing, fasting, going without are all part of Lent. I usually went without something during Lent. I think one time I gave up meat. For me that was not easy. How I missed those burgers.

I think I gave up eating sweets on several occasions, watching TV or drinking pop at other times. This year I thought I would do something different. Instead of giving up, I am going to take on. You might want to do the same.

I am going to take on the pain of people I care about. My niece is having a bout with colon cancer so our family has been especially mindful of her and our thoughts and prayers are with her and her family daily. Obviously we can’t experience what she is going through but just the fact that we are thinking about her and praying for her can be soothing to all. Whose pain can you take on?

Is it time to take on a renewed purpose in life? I never did care to have ashes put on my forehead. I guess it is because it reminds me that all of us will return to dust at the very end. That’s not a comforting thought but what is comforting is knowing that we can at any time in our life take on new missions, new goals that renew us. I am renewing my efforts to help all students graduate from high school. What new purpose in life can you take on?

Is it time to take on a new way of showing friendship? One of my best friends just sent my wife some flowers. Hey, no fair. He beat me to it. Well, I guess that’s his new way of showing friendship. If he were married, I would do the same for his wife. What new way of showing friendship can you take on?

Is it time to take on the way you view things? I can’t get Dear Abby’s axiom out of my mind. “Don’t put it down, put it away.” I have been trying to do it and I believe I have been doing pretty well. I am looking at clutter, you might say, in a different way. What new way of looking at things can you take on?

Is it time to take on those past regrets and mistakes that have been bugging you? Isn’t it about time to just get rid of them? There is nothing you can do about them. Isn’t it time to move on? Here’s what you can do. Whenever those thoughts come into your head, just say to yourself, “I’m not going to go there.” It’s time to take on a new life. That’s what Lent is really all about.

Is it time to take on a new way you view Lent? As I said earlier, I always viewed the time of Lent to be a dark time. It may be that but isn’t it also a time for unabashed hope, a time to let a new light shine in your life? It is a time to give up, if you like, but it can also be a time to take on new ways of thinking and behaving. So, let your light shine forth. Lent is here.


JOHN R. EGGERS of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.