Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the Lenten season. I think there are generally two questions asked today.
- Do you need a Tylenol with your coffee this morning?
- What are you giving up for Lent?
The first may only be applicable to the residents and visitors of New Orleans, but among church-going folks, the second is common.
Lent is often seen as a time of denying ourselves as a way to remember the sacrifice that Jesus made at the cross. We fast from pop or television or social media or sweets or coffee in order to share in the suffering of Christ.
The practice of the fast can be beneficial. When you want to reach for that thing that you’re abstaining from, it’s a good reminder to pray for those who have less than you or who are hurting during this season or whatever it is that you’ve chosen to pray about. And self-denial is a good practice anyway, especially in a culture that can be very me-focused. Remembering that it’s not all about you is a good thing.
But while I do appreciate the fast, I think focusing on what we’re giving up is the wrong way to go. Instead, I think we need to think about what it is that we hope to gain from our fasting.
Knowing what we’re giving up for Lent is easy, but knowing what we’re getting for Lent? That’s going to actually help us change.
What are you hoping to gain this Lenten season?