It's a good question - rooted in ancient church practice - that reminds us that we travel the Lenten path, we can do with a little giving up of things. Many of us live in a world of abundance - we can make choices for ourselves, we can generally eat what we want - out of a large variety of things - and we can sort of navigate our own paths - at least, around the obligations of work and family life. So Lent is an opportunity to remind ourselves of something very different.
Many people give things up - to remind themselves of Jesus. Either because his life was different - he chose to have very little - to keep money only to give it away to the poor. Many people give things up because in simplifying their life, they're able to experience God in a different way. Without some of the clutter - some the fuss. Others still give things up because it makes Easter more joyful - when you can have that piece of chocolate or sleep fifteen minutes later. The luxury, having been missed for a time, seems that much sweeter.
There are also those who will "take something on" for Lent. An extra layer of prayer in your day - or a different way to do community service throughout the 40 days. This, too brings us closer to Christ as we build in more time for God and sacrifice of ourselves.
What's really important as we prepare for Lent is not exactly what it is that we give up or take on - or how it will sound when we answer that question in church. What's really important is that whatever it is we do - it offers us the opportunity to walk more closely to Jesus. It gives us the chance to search more diligently for his footprints on the road - and then that we have the commitment to follow them.
I tend to do a little bit of both. Usually there's something that I give up - often a food item of some sort that I really love. But for me, it's not so much that I'm sacrificing - and more that whenever I notice the absence of something, I fill it with something more meaningful. With a prayer for the person I'm sitting with. With an extra service - or more time studying scripture. I use the absence to make space for something else holy. And - I tend to take on a few things, too - with the same attitude - the same goal of building in more space for prayer and reflection - really giving myself the space to listen for God.
What will you give up or take on during this season of Lent? Now is the time - a little more than a week away - to consider your plans and to make preparations.
God bless you as you prepare.