For many Christians, the season of Lent is all about "giving up." Whether it is desserts, soda, French fries or Facebook, we routinely commit ourselves to various forms of abstinence and self-sacrifice.
The historical practice of "giving up” for Lent has multiple levels of significance. We give up that we might prepare ourselves for the Holy Week journey of Christ’s suffering and crucifixion. We give up that we might be reminded of our sin and need to turn back to God. We give up that we might learn to give over our lives – its pleasures, pains, and practices – to God. Sometimes, we give up because it’s a good excuse for a diet that we haven’t otherwise been able to keep, or breaking a bad habit that we’ve allowed to form.
But what if Lent was about something more than giving up? Besides fasting or abstaining, Lent has traditionally also been a time of prayer (justice towards God) and almsgiving (justice toward neighbor.) Rather than trying to take away pleasures like candy or soda, what we if we instead focused on practices that we might draw us closer to God and one another?
Here are a few suggestions of where to start:
- Spend time alone with God. Once a week (or once a day), head outside to a park or trail with a journal, Bible, and some water and just be quiet for a while. Remember God’s command to “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
- TheDailyGreen.com has offered up suggestions for 9 Things You Can Give Up for Lent That Will Help the Environment  These are simple, practical suggestions that any of us can implement. What better place to start than by giving thanks to God for the gift of creation, and by committing ourselves to practices which make it possible for all God’s creatures to enjoy it?
- Invite your congregation to team up with Stop Hunger Now , an organization that packages and provides meals to those around the world who battle starvation on a day-to-day basis. As part of your Lenten disciple, fast for one meal a week, then use the funds you would have spent on that meal to donate towards the food and packaging costs (25 cents per serving). To get more information on hosting a packaging event, click here .
- Pray the Psalms. Some of the best poetry ever written can be found in the Bible. As you move through the emotions of Lent, the psalms offer beautiful reflections of the whole spectrum of the human experience. Let them guide you through daily prayer and meditation.
May God’s presence abide with you on this Lenten journey!
The Rev. Katherine Smith
Duke Youth Academy for Christian Formation
Assisted by Kelly Ryan, DDS Student 2012