But sometimes I think I need to set myself the opposite challenge - not to give something up but to take something up. To introduce a new discipline, a new way of constructing my days, a new way of thinking about things. This could be exploring other traditions - looking at the 'liturgy of the hours', marking time with prayer and reflection. It could be simply determining to create space for something I feel I am neglecting - and trying to foster and encourage a new spirituality, a new focus. And if I do give something up - who benefits?
I suspect that many of us in giving up something are doing it for our own benefit. Lent becomes a useful tool, a backdrop, for something we want to deal with anyway. It gives us an added edge, a more enforced discipline. But what do we do with the time we save by giving up, say, computer games? Or the money we save by not buying chocolate? (Two fairly common examples). Do we simply fritter away the saved time or money on other things, other treats? Or do we think - i want to take the me-ness out of this and add other-ness, God-ness even.
Water Aid have been running a Lent campaign where they suggest that people get together and save up 'jars of change' - the money they would have been spending on whatever it is they've given up. This money goes towards safe and accessible water for the world's communities. Their website has plenty of resources available to use.
What about time? Time saved to be spent discovering more and different ways of reading the bible, trying to engage with it. This can be individual, but doing it together can really help inspire and challenge us. What about taking a look at the Biblefresh initiative?
So, am I giving anything up? As I'm already cutting out dairy and yeast from my diet, this kind of giving up is a little over familiar at the moment. I expect I will try and give up some time wasting elements in my life, but I want to be able to use that 'extra' time wisely and well.
So for that reason I am asking myself this question:
What are you taking up for Lent?
Update: for some reason my reader comments had been disallowed for this post. Please feel free to make up for it!