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March 11, 2020

What do you give up for Lent?

What do you give up for Lent?

In the Christian calendar, one of the most interesting times of the year is Lent.  It is one of two times of the year that, like advent, is less about the actual time and more about the time that is being looked forward to.  One of the traditions of Lent is to give up something that one enjoys during the Lent season.  If you are Catholic you traditionally may give up meat during the six weeks, and of course enjoy a fish fry on Fridays (By the way - I love me some good fish).  When I was in college, I would give up caffeine, video games, and one year I did the holiest of things and gave up Facebook (back when it was really new and novel).  Of course, what did I replace those items with?  Instead of Facebook I would spend more time browsing the web, instead of video games I would spend more time playing board games.  

Now nothing is inherently wrong with browsing the web or playing board games but replacing one activity meant for relaxation for another is following the letter of the "law of lent" while breaking the spirit of the rules.

The thing about modern American "Lent" is that a lot of people who give up something for Lent end up replacing it with something else - anything to fill that void.  The whole goal of Lent (for Christians) is to look forward to Easter - which in the Christian church is when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.  Lent is the time where we find something that we enjoy, something that might not necessarily be bad, that is taking up time in our daily lives and replace those items with practices that are used to get us closer to God as we reflect on the resurrection and what God is doing in our lives.

Now if you are not a Christian, Lent may just be a time of fish fries, Easter bunnies, Easter candy, Easter baskets, and the enjoyment of warmer weather.  While you may not be looking forward to a resurrection, like New Years, this can be a time to reflect on the things that you are spending your time and energy on and see if those items are useful for where you want to get to in the long term.

It is often helpful to take time to break down what we believe and analyze it deeply to make sure that what we believe is not something that we got from our family - and instead is what we really believe.  During this time of Lent it is good to reflect, annually, on some of our deepest held beliefs - religious, political, etc. and re-enforce why or why not we believe what we believe.  It is during this time that we can interact with our beliefs with purposeful intention to help us grow closer to our goals - be that to grow closer to God, to be more involved with family, give up alcohol, or simply be more informed about what is going on in the world.  We can almost always use a refresher to re-enforce our goals and beliefs, and the time of Lent is a perfect time to do this as it is right after the cold of winter and before the plethora of summer activities which keeps us busy.

So this Lenten season - spend some time deconstructing your beliefs and understand what it is that you believe and why.

Happy Easter - Christian or not.