It was assumed that you would participate in this tradition. I suppose it was kind of the opposite of Christmas, where you always assumed that you would get a gift. For Lent, instead of getting something, you gave up something.
Over time I grew to question the tradition and seek the underlying reasons for the tradition. I learned about the ideas of imitating the life of Christ; as Christ fasted for forty days, so should we. I learned about using the practice of giving something desirable up, so that when you wanted it you would then be reminded of the season and of what Christ went through for you. I learned about the idea that it was an act of suffering to take on for my own sins or for the sins of others. Some of these reasons worked for me and some did not, but it was good to have a purpose a reason for what I did.
In time, I learned about the practice of taking on a spiritual discipline for this time, and this appealed to me. Instead of focusing on myself, these practices helped me focus on God. Instead of taking away, I was learning how to build myself up into the person God was calling me to be.
And now, I am in a space where I can see value in both giving things up and taking on practices especially as it seems to be a process for healthy living. We need to prune away things that are dead, draining, or detracting from our lives. We need to grow in ways that strengthen us and cause us to bear fruit.
I pray you will join me this season in looking at what changes need to happen in our lives and start making it happen through God’s love and grace.
Your brother in Christ,
Pastor Dan Benson