Several years ago, a pastor at our church suggested another approach: instead of giving up something, why not take up something new, like a delayed New Year’s Resolution. The 40 days of Lent are a perfect time frame to try things, or to get back on track with actual New Year’s Resolutions that have fallen to the wayside. Given that our time and habits are important things to us, this is as much of a sacrifice as giving up something you love, because it forces you to give up time and habits to form a new one. I’ve tried this a few times and had more success with it, mainly in organization and in finding ways to keep my “to do” list under control (or at least manageable). I like this because it’s more discrete than the fasting thing. It’s more about internal motivation and self discipline. Sure, it may call as much attention to you as the Lenten fasting, but it seems to me that this is done in a more positive context.
Another suggestion I heard was to dedicate a specific time to Bible reading, prayer, or spiritual contemplation during the 40 days of Lent. Again, this is a sacrifice of time with the hope of building a habit that you’ll carry forward into Easter and beyond. I’ve tried this last year with rosary prayers. I'm Lutheran, but I thought this might help my mental discipline and prayer habits. I made it through Lent, I’m sorry to say it didn’t stick. It was too rigid, and the reason I broke it was because I needed more flexibility instead of the pre-programmed prayers I was offering which, I’m sorry to say, became more rote recitation than an act of the heart. I’m modifying this approach this year by designating my prayer time as more of a meditation, so I can deal with the issues on my heart, and improve my mental discipline better than I did in last year’s failed efforts. I like this Lenten activity the best, because it’s personal, discrete, and focuses on true spiritual needs without calling undue attention on yourself. It’s a private reflection of the spirit, which is what Lent is supposed to be about.
Of course, I encourage you to do your Lenten fast if it works for you, and you’re happy with the results. The point is that your Lenten journey is a personal one, and there are several ways you can take it. If giving stuff up doesn’t work for you, then there are other options that are just as effective and meaningful in speaking to the soul.
That’s all today. Take care, and have a great week.