While many Christians around the world celebrate the 40 days (not counting Sundays) of Lent, it is interesting to see how individuals respond. Of course, not all denominations observe Lent, that begins with the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday, but faithful parishioners who respond to its practice of discipline often do so quite differently.
Most who practice a discipline will tell you they do it as a way to connect and understand the suffering, commitment, and self-denial displayed by Jesus as he prepared for what was to come. Although there is nothing that anyone today could do to repeat that sacrifice, it is a humbling experience to either give up something enjoyable or add a new practice to our daily routines. All such actions lead us to discipline. And even though Ash Wednesday occurred last week on the 27th, it is never too late to learn and improve oneself by joining this effort.
Give up something
- Give up a negative or bad habit (aside from what we think of as vices, this can include anything from gossiping to passing judgments on others to stereotyping)
- Give up unkind words about or to others
- Give up arguing when it is a moot point
- Give up falsehoods (from little white lies to allowing others to believe something that isn’t true)
- Give up laughing at jokes that perpetrate stereotypes or are crude
- Give up watching or listening to media that showcases bad behavior
- Give up a treat and donate the money to a good cause, or give the treat to someone else
- Give up procrastination
- Go outside your comfort zone and say hello to at least one stranger everyday
- Add five minutes of exercise to your current routine or do something productive with that time to enhance your health (stand while talking on the phone, take a short stroll outside, climb the stairs a few times, etc.)
- Add an extra serving of a fruit or vegetable
- Give an extra dollar every week to your normal giving to the church or add it to every check you write for charity
- Buy something extra every time you shop and give it to a food pantry serving those in need
- Recycle at least one new type of item (clothing, plastic, sacks, water, food scraps)
While these are fairly simple ideas, you can certainly add to the lists. Simply think of what you should do or what might be most difficult to give up, and that can become your lesson in discipline. But be realistic. Remember those old New Year’s resolutions. Discipline doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It can be a simple change or sacrifice of which you are cognizant and diligent. Anything that will enhance the meaning of Lent for you is a practice worth doing or giving up, and one that may last well beyond 40 days.
See Vicki’s Lenten article last year for more suggestions.