You’re giving WHAT up for Lent?!

Today is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season before Easter. So often I see people give things up for Lent because they feel they “have to” or “they want to see if they can endure it”. In a way, sometimes I feel people use Lent as was a way of getting people to pay attention to them. Newsflash! That is the opposite intent of Lent. I don’t think Jesus cares that you want to give up chocolate, coffee, cigarettes, beer or soda for Lent because you want attention, just want to see if you can do it and not doing it for a bigger purpose. Looking back over the years, I think the one thing that has annoyed and bothered me most about this whole topic was the perceived focus on what that individual was doing for Lent/was not doing for Lent, rather than what God is doing in their lives and the lives of those around them.

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According to Milton Brasher-Cunningham’s book “Keeping The Feast,” it explains the difference between a “habit” vs. “ritual.” Habit, he writes is repetition of a behavior that grows out of convenience, compliance, or “just because.” A ritual, however is best described as “meaningful repetition” – repeating those things that remind you who you are and Whose you are. I see so many people “giving up X, Y or Z for Lent” as habit, not meaningful action – and I’ll be honest I have been there before too. Once I understood the difference between a habit and a ritual, it was more clear to me that I was going about it all wrong. This was because I grew up having to “give something up” and I got used to going through the motions. I just wanted to point this out because it makes it a little more clear on realizing the greater purpose for what God wants from us this time of year.

Another thing that could add a little meaning to your Lenten season is to possibly adding something to your life instead of rather than “giving something up”. Pray more each day, do a devotional every day this Lent. Cut back on your work. Get more sleep. Take care of yourself better. Tell someone every day that they mean something to you and tell them why they matter. Volunteer. Give back. Do something good, not for the purpose of looking good or for public knowledge; do it because it is the right thing to do. C.S. Lewis once said “‘Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching. That is what this Lenten season is about.

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If your heart is really set on giving something up, why not give up something that is not a physical thing… What if you gave up not judging others? Or how about not judging yourself so much? What if you gave up putting the pressure on yourself to get everything done at once or to have it be done perfect every time? (Trust me nothing is perfect and that is how we learn and grow from mistakes). What if you stopped your negative thoughts about the world, or even negative thoughts you may having about yourself? Stop worrying so much… stop doubting so much… WHAT IF WE JUST DID NOT DO ALL OF THE ABOVE AND GAVE THAT UP FOR LENT?  How much better of a world this would be!

Please understand, if you are giving something physical up for Lent, I am in no way saying it is bad or wrong to do so. I just want to point out the the sense of growing as a person in the inside could be just as, if not more beneficial. Besides that, it just kind of makes me sad that people turn Lent into an excuse for diet plan or for a way to look at themselves with negative self image (the same reason I do not believe in New Year’s resolutions…. no better time than right now to make a better life).

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The truth is Lent is not about giving things up but instead is about slowing down, focusing your attention on where you have been in your life, where your life is right now and where you desire to be in the future.  It is about focusing on behaviors and having contemplation, examination and preparation and making positive changes in not only your life but those around you. Whether you are a Catholic, Christian or just participating in Lent because you want to – I pray that whatever you do or don’t do this Lenten season – as you prepare for Easter, you do it with a greater meaning, to make the world a better place for not only yourself but those around you and recognize that is the path you should be heading and where God wants you to be, regardless the time of year. Have a wonderful Ash Wednesday, make someone smile today and everyday this Lent. ❤ N

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