What Gives With Giving Things Up For Lent?
Welcome friends! This week’s devotional for Lent begins the first of 6 devotionals we will post here at gracetoledo.org. And today we’re going to talk about “what gives with giving stuff up for Lent?” I was not raised in a church that marked Lent as a season leading up to Easter and I don’t ever remember anyone talking about it as a child. My first exposure I think came as an adult and it was not in a religious or church setting at all. It seemed to me that when this time of year came around people would talk about giving something up for Lent. Chocolate, sugar, pop, coffee were usually the top four. Sometimes people would talk about fasting from food (not eating for a certain amount of time) or doing kind things for others.
But as I matured as a Christian I became really interested in observing the Christian year, starting with Advent. In recent years I have done different things during Lent, like getting off social media, giving up FreeCell, or memorizing a section of Scripture. But I’m not sure I understood the value of these kinds of disciplines. And I wasn’t really that good at it. (The author of a book I just read said she was tempted to give Lent up for Lent because she wasn’t good at fasting!) I typically didn’t start with the end in mind, but made these decisions just because disciplines are good right?
It’s not about success or failure but about dedicating our souls, our bodies and our spirits to God.
The last few years I have started paying more attention to Lent and I want to share some of my observations with you.
Lent is a season that can help us be ready for Good Friday and Easter Sunday. And fasting or giving things up can really help us move toward that. They help us see our weaknesses and our need for Christ.
We can take the time we would spend on our “fastings” and use it to draw nearer to God. (I am way too embarrassed to tell you how many hours a week I spend on Instagram!)
The time we spend in prayer is a good time to ask God to show us our hearts and our sins so we can fully embrace Christ’s work on the Cross on our behalf.
The goal of these disciplines is not to pat ourselves on the back on Easter Sunday - but rather to come to Holy Week, humbly and openly. In other words, we aren’t aiming to be the Pharisee - boasting about his spirituality on Easter, but to be like the tax collector - who sees and admits his brokenness and sin.
If you’re not sure what disciplines might really suit you for this Lent consider the following: fasting from food for a meal, a day, or longer; getting off social media, committing to silence or solitude for a certain period of time during your day or week. These are disciplines of abstinence but there are also disciplines of engagement - like memorizing a long section of Scripture (I am trying to memorize one of the creeds - the Nicene creed). Lent is a good time to consider how you can serve others; try doing it anonymously. Isaiah 58 talks about the kind of fast that God desires. You could also use this time to ask a friend to pray with you - especially for any of the temptations you are trying to overcome. It’s a good time for confession! (And receiving forgiveness!)
Remember that these disciplines are designed to prepare us for Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It’s not about success or failure but about dedicating our souls, our bodies and our spirits to God.