Lent 2019

Giving Something Up for Lent … Why do it?

Every year people all over the world give up something for the season of Lent. It is so much a part of our culture that even people who do not regularly attend church seem to know about the practice. Some people think of it as an exclusively Roman Catholic behavior, and yet it has been a part of Anglican practice for most of our history, and more and more protestant traditions have embraced it as well.

Called “the Lenten fast,” the tradition of giving something up for the season of Lent is an ancient practice that reminds us of Jesus’ fasting in the desert for 40 days and nights. It is motivated not by a desire to deprive ourselves of something we love, as much as it is a desire to be more mindful of who we are and whose we are. Giving something up for a season allows us to recognize what kind of power a thing has over our lives and how it might distract us from things of ultimate concern, including God. It is also an opportunity for us to examine the assumptions in our life (e.g., “I just can’t get started until I have my morning coffee.”). It helps us to recognize how we relinquish our freedom and power over to all sorts of things other than God. It helps us to recognize how we allow ourselves to become captive to things we think of as being in service to us.

Put short, the Lenten fast is an opportunity for us to become more consciously human and more consciously Christian. It is a discipline designed to enrich and transform our lives by imposing some small limitation.

For that reason the Lenten fast can take on a different form that is equally valid. Some people, rather than giving something up for Lent, take on a new discipline as a way of marking the season. This might be daily physical exercise, or reading a book that one might not otherwise choose, or spending 10 minutes in meditation each morning. By doing so the same work is at hand. Namely, we take time to be conscious of ourselves, our assumptions, and our values. It is an opportunity to recognize the rich mystery that lies at the heart of each of us. By engaging in a Lenten discipline we grow ever more into the image of Christ.

So whether you give something up, or take something on, consider taking on a Lenten fast this year and enter into a journey of transformation, of self awareness, and of discovery of God in your life.