Ever since I was in high school, I have tried to participate in some kind of Lenten discipline. I remember first giving up pop for the season. I didn’t drink much to start, so it wasn’t too tough, but it was a nice little reminder in my week that something was different about this season in my faith life. I eventually moved to giving up all sweets for the season. This was much harder. No more stopping at the candy dish, no hot chocolate while studying, no dessert. It was a discipline not only in restraint, but one that heightened my sense of how much I take for granted in my day to day. It’s amazing how making one switch for a period of time like that can really begin to alter your perception.
I realized, however, after a number of years, this practice of giving up some type of food was no longer as meaningful as it had begun. Maybe it was because I am easily bored with things and need variety in my life, or maybe it was because I was being forced to give up many more foods as my allergies became more severe. Whatever the case, in seminary I decided to switch things up. Instead of giving something up, I tried to add a spiritual practice into my daily life. I found a short daily devotion book to read each morning or evening before bed. It’s not a practice I have been able to sustain throughout the whole year, but I look forward to each Lenten season and finding a new book with simple centering passages and reflections to guide my journey to the cross. This year I am reading, 40 Day Journey with Parker Palmer.
The other discipline I have chosen to pay more attention to this Lent, along with my husband, is my plastic consumption. This may sound a bit cliché, it seems like we see articles about banning plastic straws and plastic grocery bags all over these days, but I have become increasingly distressed by how fast my recycling bin fills up each week. I’m noticing more and more just how much my grocery items, even produce, are wrapped, or boxed, or bagged in plastic. Every time I head to Target or Home Depot, I feel like I end up with more packaging trash by volume than goods. And it’s so easy just to fill the bin, let it be taken away, and never give it a second thought. When I visited Namibia in 2015, I was struck by how much plastic waste was strewn along every road, piled up behind every house and business, and generally blowing across the landscape. It made me realize, in my community, we have just as much plastic waste, if not more, but we have a centralized system for taking it away. Namibia did not. The sheer volume of this pollutant is somewhat hidden from me and I willingly choose not to look very hard to see my impact.
As I think about all God has given to me for my life, and all God has entrusted to me to care for, not just for my own sake, but for the sake of all others I share this planet with, and those who will one day call this place home, this season of Lent I choose to recommit myself to paying attention to what I consume, how I consume it, how it’s packaged, and whether or not I really need it. I’m starting small, kind of like I started small with giving up pop in high school, by looking closer at my groceries. Is there a way I can avoid purchasing that in a bottle? What kind of reusable glass container do I own so I can get bulk items? Is this item a necessity or simply a convenience? What clever ways have you cut down on your plastic waste that you could share with me?
My prayers to you as you find meaningful ways to journey to the cross this Lent, living in Christ’s freedom for you, sharing amazing grace with your neighbors, and leaning into resurrection joy.
Pastor Megan finds that she rarely has all the right answers, but tries to help her community ask better questions.