We began the Lenten season yesterday on Ash Wednesday. During the worship service, we offered the community a time to come forward to receive a cross made from ashes either on their forehead or their hand with the words, “…from dust you were created, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19). The act reminds us of our own mortality and symbolizes our intention to turn from evil ways and return to God (Jonah 3: 6,10). The sign of the cross reminds us that we receive forgiveness.
Many people mark the forty days of Lent by choosing asceticism: denying one’s self of worldly pleasures. Many folks give up one specific act or item for the forty days. The item given up should be one that impacts your daily living. When you are living in habit or rote and all of a sudden you cannot consume something you automatically have every day or you cannot perform the same action because you have giving it up for Lent; you are startled or awakened to a new reality, called out of your rote living. To become awakened is a wonderful gift and a goal of our Christian Walk. To support the awakened state; you are invited to use the time gained through the giving up act and to focus the extra time on a spiritual practice. For example, giving up/ fasting at lunch or one day a week would leave food preparation time available to read Scripture, pray, or help a neighbor. The money saved might be given to support a worthy cause and extend God’s love into the world.
I hear many folks debate whether giving up something (food, television, e-mail, computer) or taking up something (prayer, scripture reading, small groups, mission/service) is better. But I believe it is both. You give up something to make space in your life and you take up something to grow closer to God. Using the time and/or resources from the giving up of something in a devotional act to God deepens one’s spiritual connection.
So, how will you use these forty days?
In Christ’s light,