It’s Valentine’s Day…Time to think about what to give up for Lent
That might be a strange title, but hang with me for a minute. Valentine’s day is the perfect holiday to consider what you will be giving up for Lent. Lent starts in just two weeks with Ash Wednesday on March 1st. So the timing is right to start making your plan for a Lenten fast, but there’s more to it than that.
Valentine’s day is a day to celebrate the people you love. Often we do that in very concrete ways, with a nice card—sometimes handmade, a tangible gift and some quality time together. It’s not that we don’t express love to our significant others the rest of the year, but Valentine’s day is a day to be more intentional about expressing that love, and to express it in concrete ways. Well, the same is true of Lent and the expression of our love for and our devotion to God.
During Lent, Christians are encouraged to fast-give something up as one of the Lenten disciplines. The disciplines are three; Fasting, Prayer and Almsgiving (giving money to those in need). Each of these are ways to express concretely our devotion to God. They are like Valentines, given to a loved one. They are expressions of love. They aren’t required, you don’t get punished if you don’t do them, you also don’t get extra credit for doing them. They are ways to show God your love, not prove it.
At my church we have special worship services on Wednesday for Lent. This is a way to take up the discipline of prayer and spend extra time during those 40 days in worship. If your church offers something similarly, make a plan to participate. If not, find a church that does. Every year we have a couple come worship with us during Lent because their church doesn’t offer anything. And we are happy to give them that opportunity.
Make a plan to support a charity financially. This can be a church or other non-profit that serve the poor. Our Lutheran church has some great extensions that serve the needy in the world including Lutheran World Relief , ELCA World Hunger and Lutheran Services Carolinas .
And make a plan to fast this Lent. This is one of the most personal things we can do to express our love to God and our need for God. Fasting is an interesting exercise, to intentionally NOT do something as a way of expressing devotion to God. Lenten fasting isn’t about giving up an unhealthy thing in order to become more healthy- this isn’t dieting. So maybe this year it’s time to go a little further than giving up candy or Lattes. Here are three suggestions for fasting this year.
Choose one or two days a week where you won’t eat anything. Drink water only. You might want to check with your doctor on this one to make sure you’re healthy enough to attempt this. Then throughout the day as you feel the hunger pains, let them serve as a reminder to pray and express to God your commitment.
Bury your smartphone. Ok, maybe just turn it off and put it in a drawer. But you know you spend way too much time checking apps like e-mail and Facebook and that silly game you hope you never get caught playing. Imagine spending that time in prayer instead. Every time you get the urge to check your phone and find that it’s not in your pocket or purse, use that as a reminder to express your commitment to God.
Go cold turkey and give up all alcohol. We Lutherans can get a little loose with our drinking, and I’m surprised how important drinking has become to our American culture. How many of us look forward to that glass of wine each night, or that beer? How many of us enjoy the weekends because we like to drink more than one? Give it up for 40 days and turn that desire towards God.
Oh and don’t forget, we never fast on Sundays. Why? Because that’s the day Jesus rose from the dead and it’s a day to celebrate His love for us! Happy Valentine’s day!