What are you giving up for Lent? Or are you giving up Lent?

As I mentioned the other day in my geriatric rant, we’re on vacation in Florida and the other morning we decided to attend an Ash Wednesday service at a lovely little Episcopal Chapel near where we’re staying.

I was on high alert from the moment we entered because I’m not Episcopalian and I was sure I was going to mess up and kneel at the wrong time, or not know the secret handshake that would get me communion, or ask forgiveness for my “debts” instead of my “trespasses”.  I took my cues from a girl across the aisle who clearly knew the liturgical ropes, bowing to the Bible when it went by and making the sign of the cross on her forehead, lips, and heart.  I was fascinated.

Like I said, I’m not Episcopalian and I’m not Catholic either, but by turns throughout my life I have been disdainful towards, curious about, and, in the past five years, enriched by many of  their practices.

When I was growing up all I knew was that the Catholic kids went to St. Petronille for church (named after a guy who must have been on the JV team of saints because I’ve never heard of him since and neither has my husband who did grow up Catholic).  They got to get out of school early on Wednesday to go to Catechism and got to eat fish on Friday.  We never had fish in my family.  So they were special and kind of mysterious to me.

On Wednesday, while I still struggled to own the words of liturgy in a way that was meaningful, I deeply appreciated the silence, the reverence, and the simplicity of a worship gathering full of Scripture.  These guys really do repentance big time!

Anyway, all this has got me thinking about Lent and the question many people ask, “What are you giving up for Lent?”

Confession:  As far as I can remember I’ve never given up anything for Lent.

It’s just not been a part of my spiritual tradition.  And frankly, when I have considered it I’ve always thought “Well I could give up Starbucks if I wanted to, but I don’t have to so I won’t.”  I am so not into sacrifice.  I realize this exposes one of the idols I daily pray to relinquish – the idol of comfort.  Ugh!

I know it’s easy to abuse this practice…make it a badge of honor, a “work of righteousness”, an end instead of a means.  But, I’ve been reading about it and I’m wondering if it might be a good spiritual practice for me, identifying with Jesus in some small way, this voluntary sacrifice stuff.  I’m cringing even as I write this.  I find myself thinking, “Could I pick something I like, but don’t like too much?  Kind of ease into this maybe?”

I know we’re past the kick-off time, but Jesus is all about grace, right?  So even though it wouldn’t be neat and tidy and legal, I could still start something I think.

I want to know… What has your experience been with giving up something for Lent?  Was it a meaningful discipline?

Couple quotes on Lent…

“Lenten disciplines help us to abstain from the daily distractions that prevent us from seeing and naming reality correctly. As we allow some of the external trappings of our lives to be stripped away, we can return to a truer sense of ourselves and a deeper pursuit of God.” Ruth Haley Barton

“Like going with Jesus into the wilderness for forty days, that we might come face to ugly face with our enemy.  Our sacrificing that we might become more like Christ in His sacrifice.”  Ann Voskamp

6 thoughts on “What are you giving up for Lent? Or are you giving up Lent?

  1. Great post! In the Orthodox Church, we don’t talk about what we’re “giving up” for Lent. Instead we talk about what we’re “taking on”. Here’s quote:

    “Great Lent will begin later this month. We are given yet again another opportunity to redirect our focus and priorities to God. Lent is not a time for us to grumble about what we are “giving up” but a new opportunity to rejoice about what we can be taking on.
    What we are giving up is self-centeredness, resentment, despair, worry, apathy, divisiveness, close-mindedness, gluttony, fear of the future, and disappointment of the past.
    What we take on is a love for others, forgiveness, hope, trust, a passion for serving the good, a sense of unity, openness to God’s working in our lives, a healthy way of life, and a living in the present.
    We ask God to “open to us the doors of repentance” during this time. He opens the door and yet we must take the step in. We must, each one of us, decide to take that step.
    While each individual makes the decision to repent, we do not do it alone. We are community. We do it together. Let us take advantage this year of the opportunity to change our life for the better utilizing the tools that Great Lent offers. And let us do it together.”


      • Great Lent is the 40 days before Holy Week (Palm Sunday through Easter, or as the Orthodox call it, Pascha). It is called Great Lent because while there are other lenten fasts during the year (40 days before Christmas, 2 weeks for Peter and Paul in June, and 2 weeks for Mary in August, as well as weekly fast days of Wednesdays and Fridays), the fast before Pascha and during Holy Week has preeminence.
        Also, Orthodox Pascha is not always the same Sunday as western Easter. This year Pascha will be the week after western Easter, and in 2013 western Easter will be in March, but Pascha won’t occur until the first Sunday in May.


  2. Very Interesting…I had this discussion yesterday with my son and husband. I too grew up in GE and knew as much about Catholics as you seemed to. I was asking what do the ashes on one’s forehead represent? I apologize to others reading this for my ignorance. After our conversion, although a respecting this fact that God looks at the heart. He also tells us if we “fast” and “pray” to do it privately…to not show our “religiousness” as the Pharisee who prayed “Thank you Lord I am not like the “other” guy” (my paraphase) . In the end, there is nothing I can do for my Righteousness…it was done on the Cross by Christ Jesus.So although I appreciate the beautiful gestures and traditions. So I do not do lent. But my heart desires everyday to “take in” as the post above explains and “give up” those things that do not please Him. This is my goal…”More of Him…less of me”. So far I still struggle but thankful His grace is sufficient for me.


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