“Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51
“I’m giving up Netflix for Lent”, a woman recently told me – – she is serious! Her binge watching, she feels, is getting out of control. Traditionally, most Americans give up chocolate or alcohol, but more recently social media is coming into vogue when people participate in observing Lent. The truth is that Three-quarters of Americans (76%) don’t participate in the discipline of Lent at all. [LifeWay Research, 2016]
Why is Lent so poorly celebrated? Experts believe it is because it is not built into the social fiber of American Life as Christmas and Easter are. Easter and Christmas celebrations get families together and celebrate giving gifts. Lent is a solitary pursuit of discipline; Americans prefer the social.
Let us go down the list of what people typically do to observe Lent:
Giving up a favorite food or beverage (57%)
Attending Church services consistently (57%)
Praying more (39%)
Increase giving to others (38%)
Fast from a bad habit (35%)
Fast from a favorite activity (23%)
None of the above (5%)
In the case of the woman I recently spoke with, she is part of the 35% who wish to break the grip of a bad habit. As we celebrate Ash Wednesday, we remember that Lent is a time to ask God to remove some aspect of our personality that prevents us from living the life God intends, or, to call forth a quality of character that brings us closer to the Image God has for us. These two responses are what constitute a spiritual discipline in preparing for Holy Week and, particularly, Easter Sunday.
Do you feel as if you should participate in something truly counter-cultural? Try the spiritual discipline of Lent! The idea of focusing on not what I want but on what God wants is revolutionary.
It begs the question: “What would happen in (or to) America if everyone celebrated Lent?”
God only knows, Rev. John G. Hughes