It’s that time of year again when people ask me “So, what are you giving up for Lent?” and I reply with,
“My New Year’s resolution”. It’s a sad reality…
I’ve never been one for following or participating in annual holidays or significant days of the year. Valentine’s Day, to me, seems counter-intuitive because, for the other 364 days, am I allowed to love someone less? I don’t even tune in to TV shows when they’re aired because, in all likelihood, I’m more invested in something else when it’s being shown. Now I know it is a matter of perspective. In truth, you make Valentine’s Day mean something for you and your significant (or insignificant) other in a way that works for you both. However, I prefer to do those sorts of things when I want, how I want and of my own volition, opting not to perform a token gesture of ‘love’ just because it happens to be the 14th February.
For some people Lent is something to look forward to, a challenge to give up something that’s not inherently good for you or take up something that is. A chance to up the attention you give to God for a period of time, to grow spiritually and be nourished in your faith. However, during Lent, half the time people end up caving in to temptation anyway, only to feel a sense of failure. Why set yourself up to fail? As Homer Simpson so aptly put “Set the bar low and you won’t be disappointed!” (there or thereabouts).
This year I still haven’t set a New Years resolution, nor have I given anything up for Lent. I’ve not even taken something up for Lent and I’m not about to give you excuses either.
By now, if you’re still reading, you’re probably thinking this isn’t what you expected from a blog on Lent from the URC Youth Moderator. If you did then perhaps we need a conversation … Either way I’ve set a particularly somber tone.
Hold on, give me a moment to redeem myself…
The common conception of Lent is that it’s a time to give something up and give the resources (time, money and/or energy) to God as a response, to reflect on why you’ve chosen to give up that particular thing , how this affects your life and the lives of those around you. I’m fairly certain it doesn’t achieve this as fully as it might for every person that gives something up for Lent.
Many who know me know that I’m on a sugar free diet, not through my own choice or because of social convention, but for medical reasosns. Generally speaking, if I chose (or need) to add or remove something to or from my life, I tend to do it instantaneously, cold turkey so to speak, not at anyone else’s timing or demand, as this tends to have more of an impact. In fact, my ‘no sugar’ lifestyle is so engrained (pun intended) now, that if I were allowed to come off the diet, I wouldn’t touch anywhere near the amount of sugar I used to.
But what’s this got to do with Lent?
During this period, instead of giving something up, I ask myself why we have this 40-day period before Easter. The answer? Jesus spent 40 days in the desert during His time of temptation. There’s also the link to God’s people wandering in the wilderness, doubting God’s calling for forty years. In fact, scour the Bible and there’s a fair number of events that transpire over a 40-day period. Joseph mourned the death of his father Jacob, Ezekiel bore the iniquity of Judah, these and more all took place over 40 days.
Maybe I just don’t like the thought of giving something up and prefer to do the focusing on God bit.
Despite my indifference to Lent, I do appreciate the idea of receiving something through the action of giving up, demonstrating the classic way in which God often turns the general rule on its head.
I most certainly haven’t nailed the whole Christianity thing. In fact, I’m far from the perfect package and I’m fully aware that it would do me good to now and then focus on God now and then instead of bringing Charlton through to the Premier League on Football Manager. But for me to feel like I’m doing it properly and being genuine about it, it would be at a time, and in a way, of my choosing; a proper response to God’s love for me.
If, unlike me, you have given or taken up something for Lent, then this blog’s purpose isn’t to undermine that. I’m in no way opposed to Lent and am always keen to know what people are giving up! Lent is a time to renew your reliance on God and take a break from some of the many distractions which fill our lives and become barriers between God and us. Just be sure that, as you crave your chocolate or cry out for your coffee that you’re truly using the experience to deepen your relationship with God, not just doing it because everyone else is.