Today is Ash Wednesday.
Many Christians around the world are wondering today,
“What should I give up for Lent?”
What to Give Up?
Once you decide, you ask yourself if this is like a New Year’s resolution. Will I be able to keep my commitment? Can I keep the spark alive for 40 days? Or will I give up?
Forty days is a long time! Can I give up coffee or carbs? Dessert or just donuts? How about carrots or cabbage, broccoli or brussels sprouts?
What do you obsess about?
A promise to give up something for Lent
needs to be a promise to rid ourselves
of something that we obsess about.
We need to cleanse our bodies and souls of something that distracts us
from focusing on the meaning of this season
in preparation for the sacrifice of the “Bread of Life”
who gave His body for our salvation.
If spiritual discipline is what fasting is supposed to be about,
does giving up something you can do without
really do the trick?
Looking at Lent through the eyes of Marjorie J. Thompson,
who wrote the book “Soul Feast,”
I began to understand
the concept of fasting a little better.
She wrote, “… the discipline of fasting…
has to do with the critical dynamic
of accepting those limits that are life-restoring.”
She went on to caution us,
“Do not underestimate what God can
accomplish in you through the consistent offering
of such a discipline.”
The discipline is that of “self-emptying.”
What is Self-Emptying?
Self-emptying is “giving up something” –
but it doesn’t have to be food!
Fasting from a particular food we crave
is NOT the ONLY way to acknowledge the onset of Lent.
Let’s decide to “self-empty” of something.
The word Lent was derived from a Saxon word meaning “spring.” In the early church, Lent was viewed as a spritual spring, a time of light and joy in the renewal of the soul’s life. James Earl Massey wrote, “Fasting is not a renunciation of life; it is a means by which new life is released within us.”
What can we give up in order to release new life in us?
More Than Food!
Fasting is about more than food. It is about hungering for the things that matter most. It is about abstaining from those activities that pull us away from what we know we OUGHT to be doing.
- What about fasting from constantly checking your cell phone?
- What about fasting from daily absorption in the “breaking news” – the TV?
- What about giving up the tendency to let our minds wander when in fact we want to be meditating and entering into prayful communion with God?
- How about a fast from negativity or criticism?Those are some of the things we can “give up” without giving up the intent of Lent.
To Give or to Give Up?
But what about GIVING instead (or in addition to) giving up? What might I GIVE to honor God during this season of Lent?
A couple of years ago, I read in a Guideposts Magazine about a woman who had spent the 40 days of Lent in what I thought was a very unique way. She created a list of 40 people who made a difference in her life. These people who positively influenced her were from every walk of life – family, work, church, childhood friends, neighbors, teachers, etc. Once she generated her list, she wrote a letter a day. In her notes, she told each of them how important they were in her life, how much she appreciated them, how grateful she was for what they meant to her.
I read that and thought, “I can do that!
I can think of 40 people who deserve a thank you
from me for what they have done in my life.”
My trouble was, however, limiting the list to just 40. When you stop and think about it, I bet you can easily name 40 or more who have touched your life in a meaningful way. I had to make some of the names “couples.” Then, I was able to begin my 40 days of letter writing. It was a wonderful act of “giving” – and filled the time I might have been eating that food I crave!
Yes, you can give – and give up – at the same time.
What will you do to honor this season,
to create a time of “interior spring cleaning”
that leads to God in the core of your being
while making your life more nourishing for others?
Think about it…
and tell me what you come up with
in the comments below,