It starts this Wednesday.
I was raised Catholic so Lent was an annual obligation I was accustomed to. (If you are uncertain what it is click here) Every year 6 weeks before Easter Sunday we would talk about what we were going to give up for the next 40 days. One year I gave up my blanket. 🙂 As a kid I never really understood why…it was just something we did. No meat on Fridays and choose something to abstain from. There was always a strategy to what I would choose. It should be significant but not too difficult that way the next month and a half would be bearable. And it couldn’t be something like spinach that I wouldn’t really miss. Many people give up alcohol or another vice…actually Carnival started as a way for people to get all their demons out of their system before they had to give everything up for Lent. Nice.
It took until my early 20’s to figure out the real beauty behind this fasting season. It is not an obligation but an opportunity. On Easter Sunday we are celebrating Jesus’ resurrection and God’s victory over sin. It is a joyful day. But you can’t have the celebration on Sunday without the pain and sacrifice of Friday. Friday is the day where we recognize that a blameless Jesus died an agonizing death on a cross for the sins of humanity. For me. For you. The ultimate sacrifice.
Living in a western culture I know that I don’t have to experience sacrifice very often. I live in a pretty comfortable, entitled environment. And it is easy for me to sing praise songs on Easter Sunday without really “getting it”. Not that we could ever possibly “get it” but the Lenten season gives you the chance to change your habits for a bit to have a daily reminder of the real reason we are celebrating on Easter. I believe you can either subtract something (make a sacrifice) or add something like a spiritual discipline…as long as you made an intentional choice you will notice.
I found 3 questions that I thought were great when trying to decide what you may want to do for this season:
1. Is there a habit or sin in my life that gets in the way of me loving God? How can I make a change to address this?
2. Why am I giving this up? How does it draw me closer to God?
3. How do I want to be different when I wake up on Easter?
Here are a few ideas:
- Giving up various food items: meat, sugar, coffee (caffeine if you don’t want to cheat with tea 🙂 ), alcohol
- Taking a break from Facebook, TV, Computer
- Adding a discipline: reading the bible every, 10 minutes of silence, quiet time in the morning
- Taking a walk with God everyday
- Not turning the computer on immediately when you get home – taking 30 minutes to be “unplugged”
- Reading a chapter from the gospels every day
And if you decide on one…tell someone it will keep you more accountable. 🙂