I gave up nail polish for Lent last year. Two oddities stick out in that sentence: 1. My Christian denomination doesn't talk about Lent, so I didn't even know what it was until a few years ago; and 2. Nail polish is likely one of the most trivial things one could give up in the name of Jesus.
I've never been much of a nail polish wearer. I suck at putting it on, I often smudge it waiting for it to dry, and it's usually already chipped by the end of the day. Yet last year I found myself deep in a nail polish wearing routine.
I was changing the color frequently, taking it off just to put it right back on. That's innocent enough. I was tired and feeling out of control of my sleepy, baby-ruled life, and that was one act that made me feel in control and put-together.
When Lent came up, I wondered if I should give anything up and what. This nail polish habit was the first thing that popped into my mind. I thought, "Nail polish, Lord? That's nothing. I'm hardly even a nail polish-wearer."
The feeling persisted and the resistance in me was a little surprising as my thoughts went from "it's just nail polish" to "that's the only thing in my life helping me feel together and sane!"
There it was: "the only thing."
That's what Lent, at least in my newbie understanding, is all about. It's about letting go of our "only thing" to rediscover our life's true Only One.
For new Christians this is called conversion. They give up their old life and habits for Christ and His way. For been-here-been-doing-this-a-while Christians that is where fasting and Lent has a place.
We think we're good. We're following Jesus, daily praying and reading our Bibles. Then we get this calm persistent voice telling us to give something up or try something different. We're all rational about it, "But it doesn't really matter. I mean, social media is a good thing. I watch mostly clean stuff on Netflix. I make pretty good food choices. What does nail polish have to do with You, anyway?"
He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows our holes and the obscure habits we use to try and fill them. And He's ready, willing, and able to fill them for real.
So I did it. I gave up nail polish for 40 days from Ash Wednesday all the way until Easter weekend. In practicality, it wasn't that hard to resort to my old ways of rocking bare nails. In the heart realm, it was so necessary. Instead of covering over my insecurities and loss of control and tiredness with a thick layer of Plaza Plumberry or Mint Sorbet, I leaned into the arms of Jesus. I starting asking Him what He thought of me. I started trusting that He's in control when I'm not and that's a really good thing. I rested in His care.
I've learned similar lessons other times I've given up somewhat obscure things--turning off the TV for 40 days, quitting a yoga class, avoiding processed sugar for a month, changing social media habits or staying offline for Sabbaths. It's never about the thing I'm giving up; it's always about the One looking for a place in my life.
Your thing is probably different, and it may even surprise you where you're turning right now to be filled. If you get that calm, persistent nudging, then try giving it up--for a day or a weekend or until Easter. Who knows, you might even give it up for life. That's not the point.
The point is: let Jesus be your only thing. The One you turn to for approval, the One you give control of your life, and the One you let fill you up.
The next time you see me wearing nail polish, it's not because I've relapsed--Jesus and I have worked through that stronghold and it's been put back in its place. Better believe we're working through the next stronghold. He is the only thing holding me together, and He won't stop pursuing me until I believe it and live like I believe it.
Thank you, Jesus!