Giving Up and Giving Back

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, thus announcing the season of prayer and fasting with a sprinkling of ash and the reminder that “you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” As such, it’s time to solidify my Lenten resolutions. People tend to think of Lent as a detox period in which they starve themselves of a few of their preferred vices in the name of self improvement. While this can often provide a boost in general physical and mental wellness, that alone is not in the spirit of the season as it doesn’t necessarily address spiritual health. 

Abstaining from sweets or social media in order to slim down or increase time management skills are certainly positive aspirations but what do you do with that extra energy or newfound free time? Self improvement is a happy side effect of Lenten fasting but isn’t the end goal. The sacrifices made during Lent should in some way bring you closer to God in imitation of Christ’s 40 day fast in the wilderness. 

Lent is as much about giving something back as it is about giving something up. This may surface in the form of dedicated daily prayer or as earnest community service. Everyone has their own journey but let it be more than the latest self improvement kick. Do more than break a bad habit. Start new ones that renew your relationship with God. 

In an effort to keep myself honest and on track, here are my Lenten resolutions in writing.

  • Abstain from social media (Facebook, YouTube, etc.) AND say a Hail Mary every time you feel like clicking on social media apps. 
  • Delete online dating apps AND instead devote that time to existing relationships with friends (old and new), family and God.
    • Check in with friends and family once a week by planning group dinners and events or simply by following up via phone to see how their week has been. Become the friend you’d like to have.
    • Go to Vespers every week. Spend one hour in evening prayer. 
  • Refrain from mindlessly scrolling through emails and blog stats AND instead dedicate 15 minutes every day to personal reflection.
    • Pray the Rosary, write down prayer intentions or just listen to the lyrics on your favorite Christian playlist.

This is my list. What will you give back for Lent?