We are only days away. We will soon be hearing strange sounding words like “Fat Tuesday,” “Ash Wednesday,” and “Lent.” And for those of us who did not grow up in church, well, these are confusing. Let me try to help.
Simply put, Lent is to Easter what Advent is to Christmas. Just as Advent helps us to anticipate the coming of the Christ child, Lent prepares us to celebrate the resurrection of the Christ God-man. Since the fourth century, this season has been devoted to Christian nurture through self-denial, reflection and penitence. It is a forty-day period of soul refreshment that starts on “Ash Wednesday.” “Fat Tuesday,” as you might expect, refers to the day before which has become a day of gluttony and carousing.
As I have observed over the years, the spiritual goal here is not so much a rigid adherence to a church calendar, but the recognition that human beings need to be reminded regularly of their need for self-examination and a re-opening of the heart to the reality of grace.
One of the main questions that surface during this timeframe is, what will you give up for Lent this year? To that end, may I offer a few suggestions from my files:
• Give up complaining; focus on gratitude.
• Give up pessimism; become an optimist.
• Give up harsh judgments; think kindly thoughts.
• Give up discouragements; be full of hope.
• Give up bitterness; turn to forgiveness.
• Give up anger; be more patient.
• Give up pettiness; become mature.
• Give up gloom; enjoy the beauty around you.
• Give up jealousy; pray for trust.
• Give up gossiping; control your tongue.
• Give up sin; turn to virtue.
So, why don’t you spend some time this week “giving up” some things you don’t need and “giving in” to some things you do need.