This year’s Lenten season is already here and I have to tell you, I’ve been so busy I have not even thought about what I am “giving up” this year. Perhaps you too have not spent much time deciding what to forgo in Lent. Maybe we can figure this out together? First, have you thought about why we give something up from now until Easter? Well, let’s start there.
It is quite easy to get into routines in life, especially when our daily needs are close at hand. Seasons of fasting help us break the routines. The practice of fasting, or skipping a meal(s) for a set time is a powerful discipline which can help you reconnect with God. A common practice is to stop and seek God’s hand of strength each time hunger grasps you or a craving emerges. Through this practice one may discover how to seek God at all times, or at least more regularly in daily life. Fasting may also help us recognize the real struggle of the poor and hungry Christ calls us to minister to. It is easier to recognize the pain of others when we have experienced even a sliver of their pain.
What may fasting look like for us? Giving up a meal a day, such as lunch, may be a good option for us. Some of us may do best to skip solid food from sunrise to sunset each day. Or you may choose to abstain from food from sundown one day to sundown, then set a day each week. Or you may choose to skip an indulgence such as chocolate. Or you may give up meat for Lent. Or you may give up ________. All of these focus on denying usual eating patterns so our body’s natural reminders or even our programmed cravings serve to drive us closer to God. Each time we think of whatever we have given up, we pray for God’s strength to forgo it.
Another practice of “giving up” is to set aside unhealthy behaviors. As in, I am going to give up complaining about other people. I am giving up talking so much and will listen more. I am giving up assuming the worst about people I do not know. I am giving up treating people I disagree with as an enemy. I am giving up complaining about bills I have to pay. I am giving up ________. Again, each time you find yourself about to do “___” you call upon God to give you the strength to forgo these unhealthy behaviors.
Another major way of observing Lent is to not give anything up. Rather, to take on a task such as: asking how each person is doing at the beginning of every conversation. Or offering to pray for someone every time you see someone you know is hurting. Or finding a way to love your neighbor intentionally each day. Or reading a chapter of the book of Mark (14 chapters) and Luke (24 chapters) each day during the 40 days of Lent.
Do you get the idea? You and I can do anything mentioned or something else during these days of preparation for Easter. The main thing is to dive deeper into being a Disciple and grow in service to God by loving God, neighbor, and yourself. Every single year, as I observe Lent with more or less intentionality, I can say my Easter experience is in direct proportion to my participation in Lent. The greater the acts I participate in Lent, the greater the impact and meaning is of Easter that year.
I hope that helps you get going. For myself… well I think I will do some form of fasting from eating. I believe I will also give more of myself to paying attention to the hurting folks around me. Perhaps trying to see at least one stranger each day who I can have a positive interaction with. What about you?