What to Give Up for Lent (and for life)
Lent is the season of spiritual preparation before Easter for Christians. It is a period of six weeks/40 days (not counting Sundays) reflective of the time Jesus spent in the desert after his baptism and the 40 years the Israelites spent in the wilderness following their exodus from Egypt. It is traditionally viewed as a time of penitence, a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, of spiritual discipline, sacrifice, and self-denial. Words like “sacrifice,” “discipline,” and “self-denial” are often used in ways that suggest that Lent is something to be endured rather than a time of grace and spiritual growth.
Have you ever thought of Lent as a yearly second chance? Each year we are given six weeks to take a long, loving look at our lives to see if our values and priorities are in line with God’s desires for us. Since most of us find that we’ve wandered from God’s path, Lent becomes that second chance, or do-over, to “return to God with our whole heart.” Lent is an opportunity to take inventory of what occupies our minds and hearts and to clean out those things that distract us from Christ, which move us away from living as Jesus taught.
It can be easy to get through the season of Lent without growing at all, even if we pray, fast, and give alms. The key to spiritual growth in Lent is to look deep within, and ask ourselves, “What are the things in my life that distract me from or move me away from Christ?” How can I “rend my heart” (Joel 2:13) to open it to receive the lifegiving love of the Spirit that God graced us with through the death and resurrection of Jesus?
We are invited this year, embrace Lent as an opportunity for growth. Instead of the traditional fasting or self-denial, consider the following as a way to prepare our hearts and minds to draw closer to Christ and receive God’s grace, love, and mercy such that we become a beacon of that love and mercy to everyone we meet.
What to Give Up for Lent (and for life):
Give up complaining…focus on gratitude.
Give up gossiping…control your tongue.
Give up pessimism…embrace joy and optimism.
Give up harsh judgments and criticisms…think kind thoughts and speak kind words.
Give up worry…trust divine providence.
Give up discouragement…embrace hope.
Give up bitterness, hatred, and anger…practice forgiveness, love, and patience
Give up negativism…be positive and encouraging.
Give up gloom…enjoy the beauty that is all around you.
Give up that which draws you away from God…choose that which better leads to God’s deepening life within you.
As Jesus spent time in the desert, we are invited to find our desert where we can spend time in silence with God that we might hear God and God’s desire for us and be moved to live as God desires us to and as Jesus taught.
Peace be upon you,
Chaplain Mary Marks, Clinical Care Chaplain