Though it may seem hard to believe, Lent is right around the corner. In just a few short weeks we will begin our journey together, a journey that will take us through the promises of Maundy Thursday and the hope of Holy Communion, the darkness and despair of Good Friday, all culminating in the joy and alleluia of Easter morning. There are many traditions that come with Lent. Everyone seems to have something that they do in order to make the journey meaningful, to help them focus on their faith, to guide them through these forty days in the hopes of coming out of the journey a bit stronger, a bit more faithful, a bit more thoughtful. It will not be long before we are hearing conversations of what people are “giving up” for Lent. This is a common practice, and has always been a part of the Lenten discipline. In recognition of Christ’s sacrifice on Good Friday, Lent has become a time for restriction, for sacrifice, for living differently in order to gain a deeper appreciate of the blessings that we have. Often you find people giving up things that they indulge in too frequently. For some it’s things like chocolate (I admit this is a yearly practice during Lent for me), for others it’s maybe cutting down on time spent on Facebook or other social networking sites, and for many it is about cutting out the things that distract us from God.
Giving up things for Lent has always been a part of my life since I was old enough to have an appreciation of the action, it’s something that I have done, and because of this it’s caused me a bit of distress that in the last few years there has been a lot of blowback about the practice of giving things up. There are always conversations circulating about proper motivations, reasonings, etc., and it always leaves me feeling slightly off. I know why I give things up for Lent, and it can twinge a bit when that is criticized; however, there is one part of this conversation that is really worth thinking about. It’s become a frequent refrain that instead of giving things up, why not take things up? Now what does that mean? Well, if Lent is truly meant to be a time of reflection, of deepening our faith, then our practices do need to be things that bring us closer to God. What if in conjunction with what you’re giving up, you took up something, too? What if you took the money you usually spent on whatever you gave up, your daily Starbucks runs possibly, and gave that money to different charities throughout Lent? What if you used the time you usually spent on Facebook, and instead of just “giving that time up” you used it intentionally as time to spend with your family? What if you took up practices that were intentional in drawing you closer to God, getting you to think about your faith? What if you took up reading through a book of the Bible you’ve never read before? Maybe picking up a commentary to go with it, so you could learn more about what you’re reading? What if you went on Amazon and picked out a book that talks about modern faith or modern Christian issues and decided you would read that instead of all the random articles people post online all the time? What if you and your family took up prayer more intentionally? What if you took up a fitness routine with the intention of focusing on stewarding your body, which is a blessing from God? There is no end to the possibilities.
Sometimes one of the hardest parts of Lent is keeping up with whatever practices we take up or give up, so this year we will seek to uplift each other. Throughout Lent, there will be poster boards around the church where you can write down prayer requests while you work through taking or giving up whatever you choose. This way we can hold each other in prayer and support as we journey through Lent together. So the question remains, do we give up or do we take up? At the end of the day, the answer is both or either; it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that whatever you choose, may it truly be something that draws you closer to God, may it be something that helps you reflect on your faith, may it be something that when Easter Sunday dawns you might look back on and realize that you are grateful for the journey. I pray that whatever path you take, it might be a peaceful, reflective, God-filled journey, and may you know that you do not walk it alone, but with your community in Christ.
Peace it Together,