Rectors Reflections

Giving Something Up for Lent

I wonder if you are giving something up for Lent? In the old days, Lent was a serious business. It was associated with a time of fasting when people expressed sorrow for their sins. But times change, and so has the keeping of the Lent. It is fairly rare nowadays to hear anyone proclaiming the virtues of abstinence, perhaps because self-denial seems quite negative concept. Nowadays, people often choose to keep Lent not by giving something up, but by taking on an additional commitment. It might take the form of giving money to a charity or attending a course to learn more about the Christian faith.

But I’m wondering whether we might still find spiritual nourishment in the old-fashioned idea of giving something up.

To start with, for most of us, our lives are probably so crammed full of activity and commitments that realistically we simply aren’t able to do anything more. Perhaps we need to do less, so that we can create a bit of space in our lives – space for ourselves and for our relationships with one another. Lent can give us the permission to stop doing something. It’s not that the thing we’re stopping doing isn’t a good and valuable thing. But we just need to give ourselves a bit more space in our lives. We can’t be running at full speed every moment of every day.

Furthermore, giving something up helps us to strengthen our ability to make good choices in our lives. Our willpower is like a muscle: it needs to be exercised. Sometimes there are things we know we need to do, but we simply lack the willpower to do them. So, we need to strengthen the willpower that we do have. Some people have found that giving something up for Lent is a good way of strengthening our willpower more generally. If we have the strength to give up something fairly small, this will help us when we need the strength to make a more significant choice in our lives.

And what if we fail and give in to temptation? This can also be a helpful if painful experience, because it is a reminder that by ourselves none of us has the strength or insight we need to live the lives we ought to lead.

In short, Lent is a time to remind ourselves of our need for God.

Fr Jason