So why do we give things up for Lent?
Do we do it because it’s ‘the thing to do’, or do we have a deeper motivation? This is the question I was confronted with in preparation for Lent. Giving up chocolate and chips is fine, but why am I doing this, what it’s purpose? What positive response does it lead to?
The reason we give up things for Lent is meant to be to deny ourselves, to prepare ourselves for Easter and the death and resurrection of Jesus. To make a small sacrifice in order to remember and connect with the huge sacrifice Jesus made for us.
But there’s more to Lent than simply giving things up. It’s also about taking positive action.
When we choose what we are going to do for Lent, there has to be some kind of purpose to it. We need to be thinking about positive action that we take.
That’s because Lent is not just about giving things up, but taking positive steps in our faith. Making decisions not just to give things up, but to take positive action that may involve sacrifice and giving something up, but will ultimately help us grow in our relationship with God.
One area we must make sure we do this is deciding what we do to replace what we’ve given up.
If we don’t make a decision about this, we’ll find something else to replace it. Something not so constructive.
I remember 10 years ago I gave up TV and DVD’s for Lent, completely. I didn’t think about how I could make the most of this time, so I ended up getting completely addicted to the Beat Box toy we had in the house. I became an expert at it.
I could have spent that time reading, instead, because I’d not made any decision about that, I ended up wasting giving up TV completely.
I’d simply made a decision to give something up, but not taken a decision of what I was going to do in it’s place, how I was going to use the opportunity this presented me.
So for example, giving up chocolate and chips, to help me lose weight, is a positive thing. But I need to replace these somehow – the times I would eat chocolate and crisps, I need to replace that with something else - another food which is more healthy.
The reason I decided to limit my DVD watching during Lent, to one per week, was to stop me watching DVD’s too much, but also because I wanted more time to read. I’ve made the decision that all those times I would have watched DVD’s, I’m going to read instead.
This will ultimately get me into the habit of reading more, and will help my growth and my writing immensely.
So I have not only given something up, I have taken something up to replace it. I have made sure that there is something constructive to come from it, I’ve been proactive with what I’m giving up.
Not only that, but what I have given up has a purpose to it. It’s to help me read and learn more.
But as I’ve said, Lent and being proactive isn’t just about replacing the things we’ve given up. It’s also about making a positive decision to do something for Lent, something that will help us grow in our faith, and might involve sacrifice.
For example, I know people who’ve made positive decisions to only drink water for Lent, in order to remind them of people in the world who don’t have clean water, or water at all.
This involves of course giving up all other drinks, but it’s a positive choice which helps that person grow, not just a decision to give something up (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
As a result of my decision to read more and limit my DVD watching, Lent seems to have much more direction, more focus. I am not as worried about breaking what I have given up for Lent.
That’s because I’ve made a positive decision of what I want to do, not just given something up. There’s a purpose, a reason for what I’m doing.
You’ve probably made a decision already about what you’re giving up or doing for Lent.
But what is the purpose to it?
What is the reason you’re giving up what you’re giving up?
What positive response is it going to lead to?
Have you made an affirmative choice to do something for Lent?
Finally of course, have you made a decision about what you’re going to do to replace the things you’ve given up?
It’s better to make a decision about what that will be before Lent begins. Then you can make sure it’s something constructive, something healthy, something positive which can help you grow and which can healthily replace the thing(s) you’ve given up.
Say you’ve given up social networking (not easy at all) – decide to pray in the times you would have been online, or spend more time with friends face to face. If you’ve given up computer games, replace it with reading. If you’ve given up a certain kind of food, find something else you enjoy that’s healthy and eat that instead.
It’s essentially up to you, we all have our own way of engaging with this, our own strengths and weaknesses, and we’ve all given up different things. How we do it is unique to us, but what’s important is that we remember to do it in the first place.
So this Lent, let us make positive, affirmative decisions about things we can do for Lent,not just things we can give up.
It will give Lent more purpose, and let it be a time of positive growth.
What have you given up for Lent and why?
Have you made a decision about how you’re going to use that time?
What things could you do with that time that could be helpful to your own growth?