give up and give on–lessons learned from Lent

This is a repost from a couple of years ago.  I am fully appreciating its relevance on this Ash Wednesday.  ~cameron

This morning, a friend of mine posted a link on her facebook wall to a “Reverse Lent Challenge.”  The subhead noted, “Don’t give something up.  Take something on.” In her comment section, others had noted that “giving on” was more their speed than “giving up.”  After planning the youth lesson on Lent last night, I had to stop and think about that one.  What does it mean to “give on,” and how does that connect with or replace “giving up?”

As an adult who recommitted to her faith journey about 10 or so years ago, I have wondered about the motivations for self-denial at Lent.  It seems that for some, it becomes about bragging rights (who can give up the most items or who can make the biggest sacrifice) or dieting (giving up soda or sugar because it’s a great way to kickstart a diet). In essence the spiritual piece becomes “lite”ened by our own personal desires.  Isn’t Lent really about digging deeper into what drives our choices, to explore what creates worldly distractions for us so that we can draw nearer to God?

I will admit that I struggle with the idea of self-denial and wrestle with what would be most meaningful for me to give up each year.  Sometimes, I am not so good about it, and I have taken the easy way out.  Who doesn’t want to lose 5 lbs before Spring clothes weather?  In the last couple of years, however, I have made 3 commitments to myself:

1.  To spend more time learning about the intentions of Lent–what it means to my faith tradition and what it means to my relationship with God

2.  To choose one material item to let go of so that my physical-self experiences self-denial

3.  To choose one spiritual item to work on so that I let go of some of my own desires and distractions to better hear what God is calling me to do in this world to live out my faith.

It is not easy, and I am not always “successful,” but in those moments, I also learn more about my humanity and about the impact of God’s forgiveness, grace, and mercy.  And from that, I grow more into the person I know I am called to be.

And so, what does it mean to “give on,” and how does that connect with or replace “giving up?”

After some intentional meditation time this morning, here is how I responded to my friend:

planting a seed here–you are still giving up some things:  focusing on yourself as well as engaging in the distractions that take you away from the important things in life (like those mentioned in your link)–one of the “teachings” of Lent. So go forth and give on!

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