Small Steps Together: Give up

In these days before Lent, we start to feel a little restless. Particularly when Lent is so late, we are ready to dig in and start to do the hard spiritual work. I've heard from several mothers who tell me that they are really ready this year, all set to go because Lent is late enough to give them a head start.
At Mass on Sunday, I was hoping to hear a homily about preparing to sacrifice. Instead, I heard a homily about what is paid for by the Bishop's Lenten Appeal. And the priest, bless his heart, warned that next week's homily will also be about the appeal for money. I get it. the Church needs money to do what it does. And the pastors are asked to ask for money. But I was bummed. This is the year of Matthew; most of the gospel readings this year are taken from Matthew. I love Matthew! I love the gospel of Matthew so much that my second son is named Matthew Christian. And Sunday's reading is probably my favorite scripture passage of all. It is definitely the first scripture I memorized. As a little girl, looking for some kind of instruction book for life, I read it under the covers at night, with the light from the hallway. I read Matthew from the Children's Living Bible, because that's what I had. And I believed.
Here, I've quoted from the New American Bible, as it was read in church on Sunday.
  "No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
  "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat (or drink), or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?
Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? 
Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin.
But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.
If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?
So do not worry and say, 'What are we to eat?' or 'What are we to drink?' or 'What are we to wear?'
All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.
Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.
So, what does any of this have to do with sacrifice? With Lent? More and more as I look toward Lent and ask God what He would have me do or not do, the answer is clear. What do you want me to give up, God?
Just give up.
Give up me. All of me. Give up worry. And all my illusions of control. Do I really want to be in control anyway? Wouldn't it be better for all of us if God were in control? What is worry anyway? Can I hold worry and trust in the same soul? If my soul is filled with worry, if I am anxious about the things of this world, can it be filled with Him? If I am worried, am I really able to seek God's kingdom and His righteousness?
When I was in college, I had friends who deliberately studied in the libraries of the pre-professional schools most likely to turn out the highest paying graduates. They weren't in those schools, but they wanted to marry someone who was. I remember thinking they were joking when they talked about marrying money. I remember being at a loss for words when someone dear told me that you can marry for love or you can marry for money, but she never saw it happen that you got both. Good grief! How do you do that? Marry for money? Marriage is hard enough work when you're madly in love! How can you possibly make it work if you didn't even marry in love to begin?
I didn't much care about money. These verses were etched deep in my heart. And besides, I was totally, head over heels in love. So, it worked for me, to blithely move through life singing "Consider the lilies of the field."
We did just fine, living on love. We did better than fine.
Over the years, things have crept in. We've had lots of opportunities and plenty of ... plenty. We know what it is to live with abundance. Somewhere along the way, amidst the plenty, I learned to worry. I worry about eating and drinking and yes, even clothes. Can worry add to lifespan? No, but oh, by the way, I worry about lifespan, too. And tied tightly to my tendency to worry is my attempt to control. Kids will do that to you. You want the best for them, to make their lives just so, and before you know it, you start playing God.
When I was a child, I believed that a good God was going to take care of me, that it would all be just fine, even good. Now, I'm a mother, can I believe that God is going to take care of my children? That He can do even more for them--for their good-- than I can imagine? Can I stop worrying about it all? Start trusting wholeheartedly?
Can I give up?
Let go?
Sacrifice my illusion of control for His promise of more?
It's time to try.

Have you begun to think about sacrifice as the calendar page turned to March?  How has Small Steps blessed, challenged you, encouraged you on your journey? Would you share your thoughts with us, let us find you and walk with you? I'd be so grateful and so honored to have you as a companion.

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