Lent: Giving Up or Adding To?

The following post is by Candy Hanson. This is what she says about herself: “I’m Candy, a wife and recent stay-at-home mom. I love sweet tea, dark chocolate, and naps, not necessarily in that order. I have a blog that hasn’t been updated in a while: www.candyhansonphoto.com. You can find me on Twitter.

It’s popular to fast from something for the 40 days of Lent. Many people give up sweets, or sugary drinks, or TV. I would imagine social media is high on the list of things people feel they should take a break from these days.

According to bustedhalo.com, this helps us turn away from whatever has distracted or derailed us and to turn back to God. We deprive ourselves of some small pleasure or indulgence and offer that sacrifice up to God. Or we might “give up” a bad habit as a way of positively turning our life back towards what God wants for us.

In college, a guy I knew gave up talking for Lent. TALKING. The only exception was during class time when his teachers required him to talk. Forty days of not speaking unless absolutely necessary.

I was reminded of his choice this morning. I said some things that, afterwards, I regretted. Nothing scandalous – but I felt convicted that I came across as ungrateful. And in retrospect, I think I was ungrateful. I wish I’d stopped talking sooner.

Why had I said what I said? Was I trying to be funny? Looking for approval? Trying to fit in? Whatever the reason, what I said didn’t add anything to the conversation at all.

I’d honestly forgotten that Ash Wednesday was upon us – that it was the time of year to consider fasting from something to focus more on God. “Maybe I should give up speaking,” I thought. “Or at least start to weigh my words more appropriately.”

I started to wonder: What if, rather than giving up something, we should considering adding something to our lives for 40 days? If we’re looking to draw closer to God, perhaps there are things we should do AND not do. For example:

  • Give up social media and spend that time focused on our spouse or our children.
  • Give up 15 minutes of sleep to spend time reading the Bible or praying.
  • Give up sweets or sugary drinks and spend time praying for the hungry, or serving at a soup kitchen.
  • Give up sarcasm in order to say only positive things, or nothing at all.
  • Give up television, and spend time with a friend or a neighbor.

How will you participate in Lent this year? Please share in the comments section.

For further reading, check out:
Why I’m Not Giving Up Anything for Lent” by Timothy Willard
Lent or no Lent, Life is War” by John Piper
Lent is Not a Self-Help Program” by Susan Isaacs
A North American Lent: When You Want to Have an Appetite for More of God” by Ann Voskamp

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