The other day I Googled what people give up for Lent. What I found wasn’t really much of a surprise. There were links to lists of things: “The most clichéd things people give up for Lent”, “25 Creative Ideas of what to give up for Lent”, and even a list of “Cool Things to give up for Lent.” Many of these lists began with the same three things: chocolate, alcohol, and swearing. It seems that these are the three most common things that people give up for Lent. I have tried to give up all three of those things (though not at once) during one Lent or another over the years. I was successful with two of them, making it the entire forty days. If you ask me, I’ll tell you which two!
As I read these lists I wondered what this says about this season in our church year, and what it says to us. Then, as I read one of the lists, I found something surprising. It began as many of the others, with chocolate, swearing, and alcohol. But then, in the number four slot, it said this: “Lent”. It seems as though some people have begun giving up Lent for Lent. While it made me think for awhile, I think it’s not such a bad idea.
What if we gave up Lent-or at least the things we’ve taken for granted about this season? What if we didn’t give up chocolate, or soda, or swearing, and instead we took on a deeper journey of understanding God’s presence in our lives? What if we looked this Lent, not for what we could go without for forty days, but instead for what God is up to? What if we were on the lookout each day for what God is adding to our lives and our world? My best guess is that if we did this, we might find that this season has more to offer us than forty days of craving that one thing we’ve pledged to give up.
Originally, Lent was a season marked by three classic disciplines: giving to the poor, praying, and fasting. I think that if we spend forty days looking for what God is up to in our world, we might find that God is calling us back to these disciplines. God might be calling us to gather what we have to share with those who have nothing. God might be calling us to engage in deeper conversation, inviting us to pray each day. God might even show us something worth fasting from as we journey through these forty days, and we might be surprised that the top of God’s list doesn’t begin with chocolate, beer, or swearing.
If you’ve pledged to give something up, I wish you luck, and I will pray that you make it these forty days. If you decide to give up Lent, as you’ve known it, and seek to find the newness in it, I will pray for you as well. Whatever we do this Lent, I pray that we will find that God is up to all sorts of things, and I pray that we will find ourselves up to all sorts of things right alongside Him!