I was talking with our high school students on Wednesday serving the meal when someone mentioned that they had given up something for Lent. The next day, again I heard someone say, “I can’t have that, I gave it up for Lent.” People have, during this time of renewal in faith and life, given up something for Lent as a sacrifice that mimics the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for us by dying on the cross. It can be a very noble thing and if nothing else, I appreciate people thinking about their lives and their willingness to do a discipline during this holy season.
But then I think about this: will affect major change? After all, when I used to give up stuff for Lent, even I actually made it all of Lent without it, I couldn’t wait to have it again when Lent was over. If I gave up ribs for Lent, the day after Easter I’m sitting down at Famous Dave’s and having the XXL rack. I have a feeling that the majority of people who give up something for Lent will go to it when Lent is done. So is it really worth it? For some, it might be. For others, including myself, it really isn’t.
But you know what has been worth it for me over the years in terms of Lenten discipline? Taking something up. Not giving something up, taking something up. Here is an example. Instead of giving up coffee for Lent (if I drank it), give the amount that coffee costs to the poor. Instead of giving up video games or Trivia Crack for Lent, take five minutes every day to pray or read the Bible. Instead of giving up ribs, go for a walk or work out for 20 minutes. I have found that when I take up something for Lent, it has a much better chance of sticking as a habit that strengthens my spiritual, emotional, and physical life than giving something up.
This year, I have taken up trying to read the Bible for five minutes at the start of every work day. Sounds weird right, considering I’m a pastor and all. But though I spend a lot of time in God’s Word, it is often for a sermon or a Bible study or even one of these Trinity Tidings. I sometimes forget to read it just for my own personal faith. So I’m using our Bible passages found in the Good News calendar for my Lenten discipline that I hope will turn into something I do every day, long after Lent has ended.
No matter how you honor Lent, whether it is giving up something or taking up something, my hope is that you are orienting your hearts and minds to the work of your Savior Jesus Christ who has given you everlasting life and that you would be strengthened in faith during this time.