Monday, February 28, 2022

Giving Up (_______) For Lent

I came up going to Confirmation classes in the mid-60s, when even Congregationalists still regarded Lent as standard practice. Or perhaps that was just the clergy, plus my mother who had grown up Lutheran and retained the fast. The idea that we should not look for something to give up, but seek some sort of giving or outreach practice during Lent was just coming into play. I kept this focus for years, of looking for something to add in rather than subtract during Lent. Daily attendance, or a specific cycle of prayers, or increased Scripture reading, or donation of my time to others. I think I got some benefit from these. But somewhere about twenty years ago I decided that Lent had ceased being the deep season it was supposed to be.  I taught an adult studies class on Lenten practices throughout history and across the geography of the church, and that my have heightened my awareness that a lot of other Christians seem to have been growing deeper while I was not. 

I thought it best to go back to basics, and gave something up for Lent, just like my mother and her Lutheran relatives did. I have liked the result, the increased focus on the life of Jesus and the presence (both the stern and the kindly) of God. Fasting from anything is denial of the flesh, not because flesh is evil but because it is very present and an obvious distraction.


Christopher B said...

Hmmm, this is anecdotal but I'm chasing a few years after you, also Lutheran but from the upper Midwest, and I don't ever recall 'giving up for Lent' as being a thing, though we had mid-week Lenten services, IIRC. Might have been a hold-over cultural distinction from our Catholic neighbors.

james said...

Fasting is also a way to make sure that habits don't wind up in control. I thought the mindfulness stuff got a little weird around the edges--it's important to have some things like driving responses be automatic--but the idea that our actions should be as conscious as possible has some attraction.
Too many times I recall opening a jar of peanuts, and closing it up and putting it away, but not what happened to half the jar.