Earlier this week, I saw a funny post on Facebook that said, “For Lent this year, I am just giving up”. Perhaps some of us can relate to that kind of sentiment. Lent, a season of repentance, a season of reflecting on Christ’s death and resurrection, is just around the corner. On February 26th, we will start our 40-day journey with Ash Wednesday. A service where we acknowledge our own mortality, where we are called to remember that we are dust and to dust we will return.
One way to observe Lent is to give something up. Something that is not good for you. And oftentimes, I find that the thing given up, is a minor vice. Like soda or candy or some other kind of junk food. That is not bad, abstaining from bad-for-you foods is always a good idea. I also find that Lent falls in a season that is often a hinge time. We are moving from winter into spring, families are getting busier with school. Work commitments are changing with the changing seasons, and our bodies are adjusting to the clocks being reset. All of this, combined with the “giving up” of something, leads to this feeling of burnout. This idea of simply “giving up” for Lent. I don’t think that is God’s intention for us during this season. Lent is something to be observed, not simply survived. So how do we best reclaim Lent? How do we make it something more than a sanctified diet for Jesus? What could be gained from a new lease on Lent?
Perhaps this idea of giving up something is a good place to start. However, I don’t think Jesus really cares if we drink soda these 40 days or not. If we give something up, what if we gave up resentment instead? Or avoidance? Or unkind thoughts? Giving up that kind of stuff, that could lead to a changed heart by the end. That could lead to being a changed person by Easter. Or what if we added something instead? What if we added grace to other people? Or reading the Bible? Or acts of service? That could also lead to a changed heart by the end. I think when we add in good spiritual practices, things that bring us closer to God, we find that we run out of room for the things that draw us away from God. The habits, thoughts, and behaviors that lead us away from God are crowded out when we turn our attention towards habits, thoughts and behaviors that draw us towards God. We can use this as a time to chase holiness.
So this Lent, I hope you don’t give up. I hope it turns into a time of renewal in your faith. As we walk with Christ towards the cross, we also walk with Christ towards the resurrection. We walk through death, towards new life.