"so what'd you give up?"
Invariably we hear the ubiquitous: sweets, chocolate, junk food, cursing... and so many non-observers of Lent leave their knowledge at this.
So what of this "giving stuff up" business that is the first thing "muggles" think of Lent? Are we masochists? Are we glorying in our own martyrdom, so that everyone can see what devout Christians we are?
I never like to think that Lent is about "giving up." Giving up implies sacrifice, yes, but it also implies resignation. Why would we ever want to give up? Give up on our faith? Give up on our convictions? Why not come at Lent stronger, more willing to take on the challenges of this beautiful time - a way of NOT giving up. Lent is not a season of deprivation. It is a season of sacrifice, but that is not its focus. Lent is so, so much more.
In Lent we remember. We remember those 40 days that Christ spent being tempted and tested by the fallen angel Lucifer; we remember the incredible strength it must have taken to experience this: strength of mind, strength of body, and -- arguably most importantly -- strength of heart. These spiritually Herculean tasks of the Lord are definitely something to remember; what perfect Love God the Son could have and did have to do all of this for us.
In Lent we reflect. We reflect on what we do, and what we feel, what we are -- outside and in! In our reflection, we repent also. This is why, in my Roman Catholic upbringing, there were so many more people going to confession than any other time of the year: they/we reflected, repented of our wrongdoings, and resolved to serve God better in every way we know how.
In Lent we prepare. Lent is the season leading up to the both solemn and glorious Passiontide -- the most holy week of the church year; that most holy week that culminates in Christ's resurrection from the dead.
We are not here to "give up." If anything, we are here to do the opposite: to remember, to reflect, to prepare ourselves to journey head-on into the joy of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, bearer of all our sins and savior of the world. And we ask that our actions show our deep love of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.