When we were children, Lent was a phenomenon that required little thinking or reflection. Our parents, clergy and teachers told us that we had to “give up” something for these few weeks before Easter, in order to become closer to God and understand the suffering of Jesus. That was just the way it was, end of discussion. Six weeks is an eternity for a kid, so giving up a favorite candy or soda pop did indeed make an impression. When the season ended and Easter arrived, the joy of the holiday was coupled with the joy of knowing that we could again indulge in whatever it was we had given up.
In the simplistic and often self-centered worldview of a child, this understanding of Lent might work. As we move into adulthood, though, a deeper, more nuanced understanding of the season becomes necessary. Instead of just giving something up, maybe we should start “positively” doing more good deeds. Maybe we need to take some time out from busy daily activities to examine with brutal honesty how we behave toward others–even if doing so may bruise egos or cause inconvenience. Giving up unhealthy foods for Lent is all well and good (especially for overweight folks like me). Nonetheless, a more proactive, deeper view of Lent can bring us closer to the positive message of Jesus Christ, as opposed to just a simple, “follow the rules” mentality.