As I child I was encouraged to “give up something” for Lent. For me, that often meant chocolate, or pop. My siblings would likewise give up candy or gum. Then for the next 40 days we’d make do with different treats.
The season of Lent is a time of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving in preparation of Easter. Surrendering our own desires these 40 days is one way Christians can draw closer to Jesus as we remember His ultimate sacrifice and prepare to celebrate Easter.
My yearly Lenten sacrifices didn’t change much until about 8 years ago, when I was slapped in the face by a most memorable homily. We had recently moved and changed churches. Our priest was known for his lengthy, complicated, evangelical sermons, and I have to admit I walked out of church more than once with my mental grocery list planned. *ahem* I will never forget, though, the words he spoke in his Ash Wednesday homily the first year we attended our new church, and every year thereafter. It went something like this:
Do not give up something that you are going to purge on Easter morning. Your Lenten sacrifice of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups does not make you a better Christian if you eat a bag full of them before sundown on Easter day and forget all about Lent.
God doesn’t want your chocolate, He wants you.
When contemplating your sacrifice, make sure you are growing closer to Him. Maybe you don’t need to give up anything. Maybe you need to give something… namely, yourself.
If you must give up something, give up sin.
Pow! So much for my measly break in chocolate, caffeine, or whatever else it was that I gave up temporarily before that moment. Now I put a little more thought into the Lenten season.
Fasting: I love to cook and my family loves to eat. During Lent I make simpler, nourishing meals, mostly skipping desserts and sweet snacks. By keeping our meals simple we remember that there are people who have much less than us, and the time I save in the kitchen is used elsewhere in my Lenten devotions.
Fasting isn’t just about food. The year of The Homily, I gave up computer games. I had a nasty habit of coming home from work (before children) and sitting at the computer to play a game or ten for a few minutes hours. I gave it up, gained some precious time, and haven’t turned back (to the games, that is). Now I need to work on the lengthy amount of time I spend on the internet. Boundaries!
Prayer: My prayer life generally consists of saying a prayer here and there throughout my day, while cooking and cleaning and changing diapers. Pretty much whenever I think of it (which isn’t a bad thing, to pray throughout the day). During Lent I make a conscious effort to go to bed earlier in order to get up earlier to make sure I get my quiet prayer time. I also pray through a Lenten devotional book. One for me, one for the whole family. (I just pick these up at the back of church.) This is something that I try to carry on with after Easter. I’m usually pretty good until school starts up again… then I tend to fall off the wagon.
Our church offers Stations of the Cross and a communion service on Friday nights during Lent. The timing is perfect because we are finished with basketball. I will definitely try to attend this weekly event, also.
Almsgiving: Each year we make an effort to up our tithe to the church. Lent is the perfect time of year to make that leap.
Another way that I give during Lent is to seek out families who need an extra meal or someone to watch their kids for a few hours, etc. This year, with my father-in-law just getting out of the hospital and still having a long road of healing ahead of him, I have decided to fix a meal a week for my in-laws. Also, I have decided to not whine and complain and feel sorry for myself *sigh* when my husband makes frequent trips to the farm to help his parents out while his dad’s ribs heal. I tend to get selfish about our family time. While important, I do need to relenquish that this Lent.
This Lent, I encourage you to grow closer to Jesus. Be grateful for this time: less of me, more of Him.