I always had trouble with the idea that giving up sweets or soda might make my Lenten experience more Holy. Shutting down my Facebook page or Twitter account might make me realize just how dependent I’ve become on technology, but is there going to be a big “aha” moment when I recognize how much I love staying in touch with the world around me with these computer programs? While I might end up with the benefit of losing a few unwanted pounds or learn how to make it past the bakery department of my local market without buying a cookie, it isn’t something that will ultimately benefit my soul or help me get any closer to Christ. Isn’t that the true purpose of doing something for 40 days in a row? What could I “give up” that would turn Lent into an important time in my life… is it really about giving something up?
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I heard something that made so much more sense. My priest mentioned that he never liked the idea of having to “give up” something… he preferred the plan to “add” something to his life that might bring him closer to his God. Typically, he set aside a specified time of the day and would read particular passages of the Bible and contemplate how they might relate to or be incorporated into his life. I loved this idea. Finally… something that made sense to me. I didn’t have to follow along with the rest of society and decide what I was going to “give up” for Lent… I could make the conscious decision to add something to my daily life that would ultimately bring me closer to my God… learn more of His word… do more of His work… act more as He might… I could do that. I could strive to make my Lenten experience one of spiritual revival, rather than earthly deprivation.
Consider this alternative to the tradition of Giving Up something for Lent. Come up with a way to remind yourself, daily, to commune with God in some way. The specifics of “how” don’t need to be shared with anyone else. Maybe you’ll set a phone app to send you a Bible verse each day. Maybe you’ll use the reminder function on your FitBit (or what have you) to remind you to say a prayer at a specific time. Maybe you’ll be able to push aside all the distractions of the modern world on your own (although I know I’ll be setting my FitBit, because the world is just too “shiny”) and read a Bible chapter or passage each morning/evening. Whatever works for you, I challenge you to add something to your own Lenten experience this year.
I promise you that it will be worth the journey…