I know that sounds bad, but you’ve got to say that kind of stuff in the world of clickbait. But no, my problem with Lent is really my issue with ourselves. Let me explain.
I’m not giving up something this year. It’s not that I’m not practicing Lent. Nor am I ignoring it. I just couldn’t decide what to give up. Sure, you have your go-to options like meat or soda or chocolate. But one of the main reasons for Lent is to get closer to God. Is the absence of chocolate helping my faith any? I’m not condemning you if that’s what you chose. It’s still possible that it might help someone if they rely on discipline, but it doesn’t do much for me other than give me a 40-day diet. I told someone the other day that if I gave up coffee, it might make me a worse Christian than before. I’d be unbearable! It was just a joke, but it brings up a point.
How many of us are praying every time we want to indulge in whatever we gave up? How many of us prayerfully and thoughtfully decided on what we were giving up?
I’d assume not many. I’d assume this because of how often we sprinkle it into everyday conversation.
“What did you give up?”
“Oh, I gave up soft drinks.”
“Oh really, well, I gave up everything instead of water.”
“Last year, I did that, but now I’m giving up meat, chocolate, and happiness.”
When these topics come up, might I point you toward Matthew 6?
““And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”Matthew 6:16-18 NLT
Ouch, that hurts. It’s hard to hear something like that when we treat Lent as a Christian New Year, where we all discuss our “resolutions.” It’s late enough in the year that we can restart what we began in January, but it’s short enough that we have a better chance of finding success.
The problem is that it’s not.
The actual focus is, not on our resolutions, but on God, who is around us a lot longer than 40 days. Lent is meant to be time spent with Him. It’s the renewing of a covenant between you and God. It’s a time to refresh and drop the things that get in the way of your relationship. It’s a time to get closer, and if the absence of whatever you chose for Lent does, in fact, improve your relationship with God, then maybe you should continue on without it past the 40 days. Perhaps instead of practicing Lent, we live it every day. We find what gets in the way, whether it’s something physical or a deep sinful part of us, and we get rid of it for 40 days. Then maybe another 40 days, then maybe another 40 days or 40 months or 40 years. That’s the process of Lent. It’s a 40-day introduction that is meant to shape and grow your other 325 days until it’s time to reevaluate. We aren’t spending Lent keeping up with our friends or boasting our fasts. We are using it to grow closer to God.
Don’t let Lent be spent keeping up with your neighbor. Let it build you up.