As we were cleaning up after the Ash Wednesday service last week, Nate, Robbie and I were discussing ideas about what we would give up for Lent this year. An outside observer may have found this to be a highly sanctimonious conversation. But the three of us knew better. That’s because, instead of earnestly trying to pave the way towards sainthood, we were simply spitballing things we could give up that we already didn’t have any interest in. For example, “I’m giving up ice cream for Lent….every kind except my favorites of course!”
This Lenten loophole of giving up things that one isn’t fond of is discovered by most kids about the same time they realize they don’t like brussel sprouts that much. And, if they’re really clever, they’ll cite their spiritual devotion as the reason for not needing to finish all the food on their plate before getting desert!
While the practice of fasting from something during Lent can certainly be quite meaningful, at times it’s employed in a way that can seem inconsequential to people’s spiritual growth. And that’s because what’s most important as we grow in our relationship with God is not the outward show that makes us appear highly religious to others. What matters most is the transformation that is quitely, sometimes even imperceptibly, occurring within us as we attend to intentional practices that deepen us spiritually.
If the practice of giving something up this Lenten season will help facilitate this type of growth for you, that’s great. Alternatively, if adding something to your daily routine is more likely to be a source of spiritual deepening, than you may what to consider doing that. And, unless you feel like brussel sprouts are impeding your spiritual growth, you probably can leave them on the menu for the next six weeks!
Rev. Ben Konecny