Last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. There are two things that me and my friends all know about Lent; people give something up for Lent and Roman Catholics can’t eat meat on Fridays (except for fish, which is why all the fast food restaurant commercials are about fish sandwiches).
But I wonder if we need to think (and act) a little more deeply than ‘giving something up’. If the season of Lent, as a spiritual season, is to be both meaningful and productive, shouldn’t it move you towards God?
Don’t get me wrong, giving up chocolate for Lent may have it’s benefit – at least for 40 days – I just wonder how much that really moves one towards God. It’s more likely to move one towards an alternative candy, like skittles.
I guess I’m suggesting that just giving up something can miss the point. What is more helpful is taking stock of your life with God. What’s going well? What could be better? What do you do with your time, resources and relationships? Do you have some bad habits that are keeping you from fully experiencing life with God?
The answers to those questions (and others like them) will likely move you in a different direction. Throwing off the sin that hinders you and slows you down first requires that you identify what that sin is. And the ‘throwing off’ part is just a metaphor – what we’re really after is picking up new habits of thought and action that are in keeping with God’s kingdom, will and work in the world. That may mean ‘throwing off’ something, but it may also mean taking up something. If you’re sin is one of gluttony, perhaps throwing off or giving up something is helpful. If your sin is sloth your problem isn’t throwing off something, it’s getting up off the couch. If you’re sin is lying you need both – to throw off telling falsehoods and to take up truth telling.
Don’t just give something (anything) up this Lenten season. Take account of your life, your faith and where God wants to lead you. THEN you can think about what you need to give up or take up in order to get to where God wants you to go.
Give it a try and see if you experience a more spiritually productive Lenten season.