Seven words have permeated the dialogue of social media, office spaces, churches, homes, and coffee shops over the past few days. No, it's not "So when will the world end, again?" but the words "What are you giving up for Lent?"
Unfortunately, I think these words have become less and less meaningful as we have boiled the season of Lent down to a moment of pseudo self-denial as we "suffer" through our giving up of sweets, red meat, coffee, television, twitter, etc. In fact, it seems to me that Lent has become more about the question than the journey.
Think about it... We become so focused on what we are giving up that we forget about why we decided to give it up in the first place. It is almost as if what we are giving up becomes more important than discovering why we have decided to participate in the first place.
Please do not misunderstand me, it is important to take care of ourselves and if you are giving things up in Lent to better yourself, that is great! Keep doing it! However, I believe there is a greater purpose in the practice of Lent. Mainly, the fact that we give up a portion of ourselves so that we might be filled with more of the things of God. This was the original intent of the season of Lent.
Which leads to the possibility that Lent can really be more about what we choose to fill our lives with after giving something up rather than about what we choose to give up.
"What if Lent was more about what we choose to fill our lives with after giving something up rather than what we choose to give up?"
In other words, Lent may really be more about how our journey is affected by what we take up, rather than what we give up.
Here are some questions to get you started:
First off, why do you participate in Lent? Is it for health reasons? To be closer to God? To discover your calling? A mix of reasons?
Do you focus more on what you are giving up rather than what you can learn from giving it up?
What will you add to your life during the Lenten season that will help you along your faith journey? (prayer and meditation, studying scripture, serving others, etc.)
Is God calling you to give something up so that he may fill you up with something else?
May your Lenten journey be one of honest reflection, sincere faith, and increased devotion to God.