Like it or not, Lent is upon us. The time of renewal is here. It is time for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
For many of us, that will mean no more chocolate, a hiatus from social media, or a break from alcohol. If that’s what you’re doing… who am I to judge? We all have our reasons for the things we do, and I hope that whatever you do ends up being fruitful for you.
That being said… I’m generally not a fan of any of these fasts in normal situations. It’s not that they aren’t difficult or won’t teach us discipline. If taken seriously, any sacrifice will do that, and if your goal is to build more spiritual discipline, then that’s great. But I’m not sure if that is always the goal people have in mind. More times than not, even when undertaking a difficult task, I find these sorts of fasts to be rather shallow and ephemeral. People’s lives are rarely changed by giving up chocolate for forty days.
For me, that’s a problem.
Too often, I think we fail to take Lent seriously enough. Too often, I think we fail to see the larger story it is a part of. Too often, I think we fail to let our efforts live beyond these forty days.
Lent is not an end in itself, but a preparation that points us to a greater reality: Easter and our own resurrection. The purpose of this time is not to endure suffering or punishment for our sins, it is to make us better disciples of Christ through serious acts of conversion. While we should hardly expect to be perfect disciples come Easter, we should expect to be better Christians than we were before. Because otherwise, what are we doing?
I have said it many times before and I want to reiterate it now: do not give up anything for Lent, but find something that gets in the way of your life as a disciple of Christ, and leave it behind for good. When looking for a Lenten practice, choose something that will actually have an impact on your life, something that will have a lasting effect, and use Lent as an opportunity to take the first step.