The Big Q
How do you engage with the season of Lent?
March 8, 2019
I try to give up attitudes and behaviors I think God wants me to give up: anxiety, demeaning thoughts about others, materialism, short snide answers, and frustration when people or situations don’t go as I’d planned. It’s head and heart work—which I find much more difficult than giving up chocolate.
One year I fasted from speeding, even a little, while driving. It was a really good way to confront why I think those signs don’t apply to me.
Chatham, New Jersey
I did a social media fast one year. I found that I was much more relaxed and happy.
A few years ago, after enduring some extremely painful moments in life and ministry, I decided to ignore Lent. Not pastorally—our church still observes the season—but personally. I think life offers enough opportunity for pain and sacrifice. We live on this side of Easter. Too often, observing Lent feels like trying to get back onto the other side of the cross, focusing on who we were before Christ’s atoning work. Observing Lent, we can easily slip back into moralizing, attempting to create feelings of guilt, and works righteousness. I’d rather just celebrate the hope of resurrection and all it calls us to—year-round.
I have fasted one (sometimes two) days a week during Lent, using the “hungry” feeling as a cue to prayer. That was beneficial to my spiritual growth for several years. One year, I interpreted “give it up for Lent” as an encouragement for applause—raising a cause to rejoice each day. Last year, I expanded that idea, adding a spiritual practice to my devotional time each day by following the services of morning and evening prayer (there are several websites offering this, such as methodistprayer.org). I think it also helps to remember that in many Christian traditions, it is a season for catechesis—preparing for baptism or confirmation. Renewing our baptismal vows can be a valuable way to celebrate Lent.
Jo Anne Taylor
New Ulm, Minnesota
For the last few years I’ve given up email spam for Lent. I unfollow, unsubscribe, report junk—whatever it takes to get all the unbidden commercial junk out of my inbox. The practice of intentionally reducing the noise in my inbox has been incredibly beneficial to my productivity and my peace of mind. It’s amazing how quickly it builds up after one year of doing life.
For the last ten years or so, I’ve entered into the same discipline for the season of Lent: I don’t turn on music in my car. It’s not that I think music is bad. On the contrary, I think it’s one of the best things in life! That’s how I figured out what might be particularly good for me to sacrifice for a season. On top of that, I’m not very good at silence. So turning off the music turns on a quiet space for listening. And then once a week, I pump the jams on Sundays (the feast days). Loudly.
I volunteered at my son’s third grade school Valentine’s Day party. On the ride home, he asked his friend why he wasn’t eating any of his candy. His friend explained he gave it up for Lent, that Catholics have to suffer in Lent to remember that Jesus suffered. My son sighed and said, “I’m glad we are Covenant. That’s a religion where you can eat anything you want.”
Joan Palmquist Wolford
On Ash Wednesday, our church asks people to pray about what they feel led to either add or subtract as a Lenten spiritual discipline.
I think the point of Lent is to give us extra time to focus on Christ. So instead of watching TV for hours, you spend that time reading your Bible and praying. But we shouldn’t need a special time of year to do that. We should always be seeking after Christ and giving up things that pull us away from him. I think giving up certain food is missing the whole point.