by Beth Haenni
The Haenni family is all-American. We work hard, and we love to buy things. Who could imagine our response when our 5-year old daughter asked us what we were giving up for Lent?
She came home from preschool on Ash Wednesday and proudly announced that she was “giving up” her old bike helmet. “Well,” I said, “that’s not exactly what Lent is about. Try to think of something that would make you a better person.” And so, we agreed that she would give up saying mean words and picking her nose.
Next, our daughter called Mimi and PopPop (her grandparents) and suggested that they give up junk food. Then came the hardest part: our daughter suggested that we give up shopping. Wow – what? Not buy anything for 6 weeks? Not our regular Friday night mall run? Not our weekly Target raids? Not our harmless Amazon purchases? Not even a little throw pillow for the sofa or a new cookbook for Scott?
And so it was.
I share with you, fondly, three stops along our Lenten journey.
1. In the past, when we’ve wanted something (or convinced ourselves that we needed it), we’ve bought it. We’ve learned during Lent, however, that we can still be satisfied by exercising our creativity in reusing something we already have. During Lent, when we’ve needed a change of house scenery, we’ve rearranged furniture and even dusted off old wedding gifts from the attic. Reducing our consumerism has made it easier to respect God’s green earth.
2. I dropped our daughter off at a birthday party last week and had an hour to kill, during which I would normally go shopping. Instead, I drove to a friend’s house, knocked on her door, and surprised her with a one-hour girls’ chat. What better way to cherish the friends God has given us? (Our daughter, by the way, made the birthday boy a special, detailed, drawing of a truck for his gift – instead of shopping for a book or toy.)
3. By not shopping, we have saved money, and we have enjoyed giving it away! To whom much is given, much is expected. It has been a blessing and a joy to be financially generous to the church by giving to “extra” places outside of our pledge. The Bible says to give to others from “the beginning of your week” not from the leftovers, and our Lenten journey has enabled us to be more true to God in this way.
We emerge from our 6-week Lenten journey, having “denied” ourselves the right of shopping, having better defined need versus want, having lived a simpler life, and having built a fatter savings account for sharing with others. We’re happier. God spoke, and this time, we listened.
For anyone courageous (or crazy) enough to try this, or if you just want to learn more about the rules we followed, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Beth Haenni is a member of Myers Park Baptist Church, Charlotte, NC, a BPFNA Partner Congregation.