Every year when Lent rolls around, I anticipate Easter, but I dread the six weeks in between — weeks that feel more like deprivation than anticipation. I solemnly put ashes on my forehead on Ash Wednesday, and then decide to fast from something for 40 days.
To me, Ash Wednesday feels like Groundhog’s Day, if the Groundhog always saw its shadow and there was always 6 more weeks of winter to dread.
This year as Lent arrived, I was thinking of what I wanted to give up for 6 weeks. As I contemplated how Lent inevitably ends — with the crucifixion of Jesus that we’ll observe on Good Friday — I thought about that sacred story, and I remembered a character from that narrative who doesn’t get much attention. Simon of Cyrene.
When I was growing up in Sunday School, we used to talk about the only two things God can’t do: God can’t sin, and God can’t make a rock so big He can’t move it.
When Jesus arrived on earth, the incarnation of the Divine in a physical form, there was something else he couldn’t do: he couldn’t carry his cross all the way up the steep Golgatha hill. So the Roman soldiers picked Simon out of the crowd and made him carry the cross.
This year, I’ve been thinking not only about giving something up, but about helping someone else carry their load.
What if we, like Simon, used the strength and skills we have to help each other bear a burden that’s too heavy to carry alone? What if we used the next 40 days (well, more like 35 days now) to be aware of other people’s struggles? What if the sacrifice we made this liturgical season was time or money spent on someone other than ourselves?
Coming off of last month’s blog series on singleness, I’ve been thinking about how I can use my freedom as a gift to give to other people. Maybe following in Simon of Cyrene’s steps for the next 6 weeks, helping other people carry their loads, is a good place to start.
This week I’m working on a list of ideas of how we can help other people during Lent this year. How about you? What (if anything) are you giving up for Lent this year? What ideas do you have for how you might be able to help someone carry their load?