Faithfully Yours - More than just giving candy up


By Neil Strohschein

A mother of two pre-teens, so the story goes, prepared a beautiful Shrove Tuesday meal of pancakes, sausages and fresh fruit for her family. As they were eating, she said to her children: “Tomorrow is first day of Lent, and this year we are giving up candy and ice cream.” Her oldest son looked at her and said: “Aww, Mom! We give them up every night after 8 p.m. Why do we have to give them up during the day as well?” 

Coming from a pre-teen, that question is understandable and can be forgiven. The same can not be said for an adult—especially one raised in a church that follows the liturgical calendar.

The period of Lent can best be described as a valley between two tall ranges of mountains.

If you have driven from Vancouver to anywhere in Manitoba, you will understand the above comment.  First, you must climb out of the Fraser Valley. The climb can be quite steep at times, but it levels off at Lillooet. At Revelstoke, you start climbing again until you reach the Summit of Roger’s Pass, make your way east to Calgary and the flat lands of the prairie provinces.

To me, the first climb represents the period of Advent. It begins with a call to prepare for the coming of our Lord. The excitement builds for four weeks until it peaks at Christmas with our celebration of Christ’s birth.

We pause to reflect on the significance of Christ’s birth. Then we enter a deep valley. The path through this valley isn’t easy to navigate. There are some sharp turns in the road and dangers all around us. The climb out of it is harder. But on Easter morning, we emerge into the open space before us as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

That valley is the period of Lent. Lent should never be trivialized. It’s not just about giving up candy and ice cream for a few days. Lent is about us—and about the attitudes, bad habits and harmful activities that keep us from enjoying a wholesome relationship with God.

During Lent, we are exposed to the ugliness in society and must confront the ugliness in us. We see how often and how easily we react to life’s challenges with pride, selfishness, bitterness and anger that puts barriers between ourselves and others; and between ourselves and God.

During Lent, we remember that the Jesus who walked the dusty roads of this planet faced the same daily challenges you and I face. He suffered pain, heartache, disappointment and loss. He was despised and rejected, falsely accused and put to death for crimes he had not committed.

But Jesus did not yield to the urge to sin. He overcame every challenge he faced. Then he died. He gave his life to atone for every selfish act, every bitter attitude, every angry word; and to break down the barriers, built by pride and arrogance, that keep us from loving, accepting and forgiving others as God through Christ has loved, accepted and forgiven us.

During Lent we are reminded that this Jesus lives in us. He understands the challenges we face. He is not intimidated by the ugliness he sees in us. He offers us his guidance, his encouragement and his strength to that we can rise above every challenge life sends us. In our time of need, He will come to us, take our hand and lead us through our trials to total victory and lasting peace.