“WHAT ARE YOU GIVING UP FOR LENT?” we girls would ask each other, walking home from school together all those years ago.
I am thinking about that annual conversation this morning as Lent is about to begin. Today’s YouVersion reading included an invitation from the Book of Joel to “return…with all your heart, with fasting…,” but the second reading contained a warning, an instruction about fasting, to keep it to oneself, not to make it obvious. In fact, to take care to keep it private.
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting…” (Mt 6:16 NIV).
Back to my gaggle of girls. I recall those early years, the vows to forego candy or ice cream or soda. As we matured, the sweets turned to TV or the giving over of time to some good service. One friend chose to devote the late afternoon hours between school and dinner to play with younger siblings rather than avoid them. Impressive!
A few years ago a friend gave up email because she thought she was developing an addiction. This year, I’ve heard quite a few abstaining from or limiting exposure to social media.
Lent is a very individual thing, isn’t it?
As for the “whether to tell others”….
We would tell each other what we were giving up, most of us. And the telling met with a variety of consequences.
- Sometimes we inspired each other’s thinking.
- Sometimes we were an encouragement to each other.
- Some in the group saw this sharing as an invitation to “police” everyone else, reminding them of their commitments just as they were about to violate them. Some appreciated this service. Others did not. Accountability is best when expressly asked for.
- And then there were those who chose not to share at all. Hmmm.
I offer no tidy wrap-up on this one. Just wanted to toss the memory out there….and the verses. If you have thoughts on the topic of telling or not telling, I’d love to hear them.
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