Today is Ash Wednesday -- an important holy day for many Christians. It marks the beginning of the Lenten season which leads up to Easter. As part of it, we often hear the faithful – especially Catholics – talk about what they plan to “give up” for Lent. The idea is that you sacrifice something important to you as a symbol of your devotion to God. I never really understood when people talked about giving up things like chocolate or Diet Coke. So I asked my dear friend Lori Lair about it. Not only does she have amazing insight on a variety of topics, she is a devout Catholic. She wrote the following post ! I think it’s awesome! I hope you do, too!
Lent: Diet or Sacrifice by Lori Lair
What did you give up for Lent? It’s a common question for people of a number of Christian faiths. The answers are usually things like chocolate, fast food, dessert, or even smoking. But why did you give up that particular thing? For some it’s because they’ve been meaning to give it up anyway and this is a good opportunity. For others, it’s a firm start for their diet. Still others do it because somewhere along the line they were told they are supposed to give up something for Lent, so they do.
Sometimes the real reason can get lost, even though most who participate in the practice know it. We just need a reminder. I was taught (but not until I was an adult) the real reason for giving up something and, if you’re Catholic like me, not eating meat on Fridays, is that it is a small sacrifice that reminds us of the HUGE SACRIFICE Jesus Christ made for us all. He chose to die an unimaginably painful death for my sins. So every time I want what I have chosen to give up, I remember that Christ sacrificed His life so I would be saved. That reminder gives me a great feeling of sorrow for what He went through and extreme gratitude that He chose it. It’s the reminder that’s important.
Lent is also a time of cleansing. Now if I gave up Coke, fried food and caffeine for 40 days, my body would certainly be cleansed, and I might even lose a few pounds! But Lent is a time for our spirits to be cleansed. When Jesus spent 40 days in the desert fasting, praying, and avoiding Satan’s temptation, he wasn’t doing it to lose weight or get healthy. He was growing closer to God the Father and preparing for His final Sacrifice. How I see it is that He was removing all His obstacles so He could focus. Perhaps that’s how we should view Lent.
Maybe in addition to, or instead of giving up something physical, we should also give up those things that keep us from growing as close to Christ as we can be – things like envy, greed, arrogance, gossiping, etc. Maybe I’m alone here, but faults like those are what keep me from getting as close to God as I can be. And maybe if I’m able “give up” those things for 40 days, I’ll continue to do it after Lent.
Perhaps in order to get closer to Christ, we need to do something rather than giving up something. Be nice each day to someone you don’t particularly care for; take time to listen to someone when you really don’t have time, or read and reflect on one of Jesus’ parables everyday. The possibilities are endless and you don’t have to do just one thing!
The bottom line for me is whatever we choose to do or to give up, let’s take the opportunity to make it meaningful. If we do that, Easter will even be more of a celebration! So what are you doing for Lent?
Disclaimer: These are my personal views based on my faith. This note is meant to provide some food for thought, NOT to preach, or tell anyone that what they are or are not doing is wrong.