If you follow the church calendar, we’re now in the season of Lent, a time of introspection and confession leading up to Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. The idea is to do some personal housecleaning, and hopefully grow closer to God as a result. Instead of giving up meat—or chocolate, or TV (which I rarely watch anyway), I’m trying something a bit different this year. Since I’ve been reading Deuteronomy, I’m asking God to search my heart as I focus on each of the Ten Commandments. How am I doing with obeying God?
In the last few years, at least among those I know, there seems to be a renewed interest in the liturgical calendar and various spiritual practices, and observing Lent is once again on the radar screen. Several friends have asked me what I gave up for Lent, not to assess my spiritual maturity, but rather to get some ideas for their own observance. With no standard practice, we are pretty much open to anything—meat, TV, Facebook… whatever.
Last year I “fasted” from computer games. While I don’t think I’m addicted, I was surprised at how strong the urge was to play just a few rounds of solitaire, maybe to unwind, maybe to stay distracted while waiting for something. But I managed to resist temptation and instead used the time to read my Bible and pray. What a good idea!
This year I had in mind to do something similar, but Ash Wednesday came and went and I did nothing about it. I’m sure I can come up with a list of excuses if you email me and ask.
What are you giving up for Lent?
This was a familiar question in my college dorm, back in the “Jesus Freak 70s.” As a child growing up in a Catholic neighborhood (my non-religious family stuck out like a group of Hari Krishnas at a bar mitzvah), I remember all my friends forgoing meat from Ash Wednesday until Easter. Fish sticks appeared on the school cafeteria menu while brown-baggers munched peanut butter or tuna sandwiches day after day.
Somewhere along the line, non-Catholic believers decided that giving up meat wasn’t the only option. We could fast anything, as long as it had some spiritual impact on our lives. Some of my college friends gave up sugar, while others unplugged their stereos. Bring that concept into the 21st century, and we might have signed off Facebook for the duration, or stopped playing video games.