Glocal Series: Why Bother Observing Lent?

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Growing up, my family did not observe Lent except for pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. As I got older, I had more interactions with people from different denominations. While I was at university there were some people who did observe Lent or at least wanted to try to sacrifice something.

One year, some of my housemates decided to give up gossiping. But shortly after their decision, they had an “aha!” moment—it was probably something to give up all the time, not just during Lent.

So, to be honest, I haven’t had that much experience observing Lent. Since moving to Toronto our former church participated in a special prayer guide called “Seek God for the City” during Lent. I enjoyed adding that to my prayer time, but since I wasn’t that familiar with observing Lent then, I’d often forget about it or wonder “When are we doing that prayer guide thing?” As a side note, I got the app this year and it’s been an informative way to pray for the city. I’m planning on still using it afterwards for the days I missed.

A Sweet Sacrifice

When it comes to sacrifice for Lent though, a Catholic student I met on campus doing evangelism once said her priest had said that what you give up for Lent should be something that affects your relationship with God—perhaps chocolate doesn’t really fit into that category.

That being said, I did give up chocolate for Lent the year I was pregnant with Caleb, but it was also for health reasons as I was border-line for having gestational diabetes (a special type of diabetes that affects a woman while she is pregnant, but if not monitored can lead to problems for the baby and the mother later in life). I felt like there were a lot of temptations to eat chocolate after I made that decision. It was a challenge for sure. After Lent, I felt so good that I thought “I could go without this for longer, ‘til the end of the pregnancy!” As it turned out Caleb ended up coming later than I had thought, so what started out as a 40-day fast morphed into a 60+ day fast. Let’s just say that the first bit of chocolate I ate after he was born was SOOOO GOOD!

It’s All Fun and Games Until Idolatry

I kept thinking: should I try to give up something this year? In recent years, some friends gave up social media as it was a distraction. While social media is a temptation for me, it’s not too practical to give it up as I use it to get in touch with my students on campus. Is there anything in my life that is distracting me that I think I can’t live without?

Immediately something came to my mind: games on my phone. They distract me from being present and doing the “first things first”. I often use them to “escape” my life as a mom of 3 boys, which sometimes feels like a 3-ring circus with a crazy woman as the ringmaster. At least with a game, I can control it and feel like I’ve accomplished something. But many times, the thirst for the next level consumes me and I end up escaping for too long.

It’s been a challenging month, let’s just say. But with God’s help I’ve been able to stay away from the games. I have noticed myself being tempted, though, to “escape” in other ways like reading novels. I gave in at times. But with God’s help I’ve not wasted as much time as I normally do with the games.

Through sacrificing phone game time, it’s been a good challenge to see whether it’s an idol for me. The fact that I had to ask, “Is it an idol?” made me think maybe it was. I’m learning that the world still goes on even if I can’t play the games. My identity and worth don’t depend on whether I get the high score or make it to the next level. I can be more present with my kids and the people around me when I’m not distracted by the games. It’s been good to see “life on the other side” and see that it’s OK and still works.

Finding Fulfilment in God

If you think about it, Jesus lived a life with more than a 3-ring circus going on around him, but at every turn he was able to be present. He spent regular time away with the Father to be able to handle that. I learned a lot about the importance of getting that personal time alone with God this month.

Obviously, Jesus sacrificed way more for me than giving up phone games. But sacrificing something has been a good test to see how much it means to me. Do I love Jesus more than the games on my phone? For. Sure. Can I live without them? Totally.
The challenge going forward will be, what happens after Lent? Let’s carry the lessons of Lent with us. Whatever we give up now shouldn’t be an idol later. There are plenty of nice things that aren’t needed to live a fulfilling life in Christ.

By Cindy Kenyon