Giving Up and Taking On - Lent

During Lent, people usually take on special practices to help grow in their faith. Traditionally, these include fasting, prayer, reading Scripture or spiritual books, and giving alms to help those in need. Sometimes people talk about these as practices of “giving up” and “taking on.” We engage in practices of “giving up” to make more room in our life for God; we engage in practices of “taking on” to fill that space with something that draws us closer to God.

For a long time, for most Christians, the focus was on the “giving up” practices. Then, the emphasis shifted, and people really started emphasizing the taking on. Yearly, I hear multiple people say something along the lines of “I don’t like giving things up for Lent, I take something on.” Once I heard someone tell me that giving up was too hard of burden, and Christ had taught us that his yoke was easy and his burden was light, so they don’t do that. Fair enough.

However, in the busyness of our lives today, I wonder if the pendulum is beginning to swing back. Over the last several years, I have started hearing more people talk about giving up again. And not just chocolate, but really thoughtfully thinking about things that are getting in the way of the life that they think that God wants for them. I hear of people giving up social media for Lent or reading political news or gossiping. I hear of people not eating out at restaurants or shopping for anything other than necessities. I hear of people turning off the power for an hour each evening, not buying anything in plastic, and not driving their cars for a day or two each week.

Ultimately, I think that the old idea of giving up and taking on is probably best. Give up something that gets in the way and take on something that draws you closer to God. Give up social media and pick up a book about faith. Give up shopping for unnecessary stuff and give some of what you save to those in need. Give up electrical lights and TV in the evening and have a family conversation about God and spirituality and faith. Or perhaps your life is so packed that giving up is taking on: taking on sabbath rest. Taking on the chance to stop, breath, and remember that the burden of Christ is light and we can let go of all those burdens that the world lays upon us.