Giving something up for Lent was not part of my religious upbringing. I heard about other people doing it, but I never really saw the point. Most of the people I knew who talked about giving something up for Lent seemed to do it more as a dieting tactic than a religious practice. It always seemed to be chocolate, or soda, or just sugar in general. And the explanations that I heard for why to fast didn’t make sense to me, either. I heard it explained as choosing to suffer as a reminder of Christ's suffering. But, while a month without chocolate might not be fun, it didn’t strike me as a very good representation of Christ’s suffering. So the Lenten fasting that I saw around me seemed like a trivial (and maybe even self-serving) gesture that I didn’t feel drawn to.
Of course, that is not the way a Lenten fast is supposed to work. Fasting (abstaining, or giving something up) is an ancient spiritual practice. There are lots of versions of how to fast, but all of them share a goal of drawing us closer to God. So, in those terms, I think the idea of giving something up for Lent is a great idea! Lent is the perfect time for quiet reflection to examine our lives and our hearts to see what is getting in the way of our relationship with God. What is something that we could let go of, or abstain from, that would allow us to draw closer to God? Is it a habit of numbing ourselves with food or social media? Is it a frantic pace to our day that keeps us too busy to notice God in our lives? Is it holding on to old routines that keep us from being open to new directions that God might be calling us to? Is it shame or harsh self-criticism? Is it a certainty of our own “right-ness” that prevents us from seeing the new ways God is at work? What are the obstacles in your life that interfere with your relationship with the God who loves you? Whatever it is, consider making it a spiritual practice to actively abstain from that very thing. Try giving it up for Lent.
When practiced as a way of drawing closer to God, fasting can be life-giving. Whatever spiritual practice you choose, I encourage you to take some time this Lent to reflect and pay attention…to notice what draws you closer to God and what gets in the way.
Make time to join us on Wednesday evenings for the sung liturgy of Holden Evening Prayer starting on February 21st at 6:30pm. Or simply set aside quiet time for prayer and reflection.