What Did You Give Up For Lent?

“What Did you Give Up for Lent?”

My friend asked me at choir rehearsal last night. I hesitated because I wasn’t sure. In the past few years, I opted for adding virtuous practices and moved away from the usual rubric of “giving up” or abstaining from things. Yes, the scandal of it all. I still consume chocolate during Lent.

My trend of opting in versing opting out started in college five years ago. I added rituals, prayers, or reflections to my daily life during the Lenten 40 Days. I figured that whole premise about developing or breaking habits with 30 days included spiritual habits too. Lent provides not 30 but 40 days to develop a new habit.

There isn’t anything wrong with giving up or abstaining for Lent. Giving up or abstaining develops perseverance and wisdom. With certain health problems abstaining from certain things like caloric intake really isn’t a healthy option. Regardless, I have a whole load of spiritual, mental, and emotional things to work on.

Five years ago I created a list . . . a list of gratitude. How often to we thank God for our many blessings or even ponder the blessing ourselves? That Lent I wrote 40 things, people, feelings, emotions, gifts, crosses, etc. I was grateful for and thanked God. Did I loose five pounds or run five miles daily? No. But I honed a deeper sense of gratitude. That deeper sense of gratitude had lasting affects on my daily life, health, wellness, hope, and Trust in God.

So every year since that first list I opt in and develop a behavior during Lent amid abstaining too. Last year, my beloved and I prayed Compline each night and still pray Compline whenever we are between novenas and special prayers. That was a lasting, positive change in our spiritual life.

This year we’re adding another spiritual practice: praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. As an individual, I decided practice deliberate almsgiving. Today I’m discerning how best to approach almsgiving this Lent, and asking the guidance of the Holy Spirit to Trust God more and mammon less.