Many Christians observe Lent by “giving something up”. Should we think about taking something on instead?
While Lent may be that time-honored season of half-heartedly giving up desserts, or coffee, or television, the true spirit of the season may lie not in what we give up – but what we take on. Consider the history of Lenten discipline: Christians for centuries have seen the period between Ash Wednesday and Easter as a “journey to the cross”. Traditionally speaking, Lent is a time focused on the preparation of the believer through prayer, penitence, almsgiving, and self-denial. For these reasons, many Christians choose to observe Lent by devoting more time to prayer, reflecting on their experiences, beliefs, and behaviors, giving away money or possessions, and “giving up” parts of their lives that hinder their wellbeing or spiritual growth. Yes, denying oneself pleasures such as dessert can fit into that pattern, but the real point of self-denial is to deny oneself those things that hinder a fuller relationship with God. If your desserts are somehow doing that, then by all means put down the cookies, but I’d wager that there are other behaviors or habits that serve as far larger stumbling blocks in your journey of faith.
Do you regularly make time for reading and study? Do you give yourself and those around you the proper time and space for healthy relationships to develop? Do your prayers consist solely of requests? Or do you allow moments of silence to occur, moments in which you might hear that still, small voice of God? It might be that Lent will be far more profound, far more meaningful for us if we learn that it’s not really about giving things up, but taking things on. Try taking on more time for study, for prayer, for service, and for acts of compassion and generosity for the next forty days, and see where this “journey to the cross” leads yo
What are you doing to observe the season of Lent? If you have ideas you’d like to share, please do! Feel free to follow Lenten Discipline in 140 Characters or Less on twitter: @reflectious or @leekoontz as well.
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