Why Give Up Anything For Lent?
I have this friend who told me once in confidence that he absolutely couldn't stand Lent. "Why do you have to walk around all depressed and somber for forty days?" he asked me. "We should be celebrating."
Then he went on a diatribe about the phoniness of people who made such a big deal about giving up coffee for Lent, or social media, or chocolate. I remember laughing nervously because I'd just decided to give up Facebook and a couple of other things for Lent.
What I didn't articulate in that moment was the reason why I had decided to give up those things (not coffee) for Lent. It wasn't that I was trying to act depressed or to garner attention as some holy fellow--far from it.
The real reason was because I felt like I needed to let go of some of the stuff that was keeping me from being my best self, and was inhibiting my ability to fully follow Jesus.
You see, I'd started to listen to the critical voices in my head---the ones that constantly remind you how undisciplined you are... how you can't finish things... how you couldn't possibly be a proper Jesus-follower.
When you start to dwell on those kinds of thoughts, it changes you, and not for the better.
Author Jen Sincero says that the inherent danger in heading down that path is that: "Our thoughts become our words, our words become our beliefs, our beliefs become our actions, our actions become our habits, and our habits become our realities."
The season of Lent provides us not only with an opportunity to renew our relationship with Jesus, but also an opportunity to renew our relationship with our true selves. It gives us a moment when we can practice self-discipline, restraint and increase our connectedness to God and to others.
Jesus advice to disciples when they were working on these kinds of things was fairly simple:
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."May you keep a holy Lent for all the right reasons--chief of which is a desire to have a right and close relationship with the One whose steps we are following to the Cross.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.