Friday, February 23, 2007

Lent - what's it all about?

Just read an interesting column in the Church Times about the current trend to make an achievement of Lent: it becomes a self-improvement or detox time. The writer, Giles Fraser, discusses how difficult it is, in our success-orientated society, to get away from that kind of mindset and do things simply because they get you off the treadmill for a while, disregarding altogether their 'purpose'.

It's a funny time, Lent. I always find it meaningful and moving but I'm not sure why. Easter is my favourite time of year: that's partly due to increasing hours of daylight. (The best time to start a new job is very early Spring: you begin full of anticipation of approaching summer and have a long wait before autumn term darkness and stress kicks in).

My most striking celebration of Lent was to give up make-up, when I was about 22 and took myself a little too seriously. (Which is not to say the make-up thing didn't do me good....) This year, I've been slightly less ambitious and simply given up reading the free Metro newspaper on the trains. The writing is awful and the content depressing: every other page is about someone stabbing someone or beating them brutally. I'm sure reading it has a negative impact on my day: so I'm trying to read the bible or a good novel instead.

Jon and I have given up alcohol on weekdays - unless abstinence would impact our socialising with others! So maybe we are buying into the 'detox' thing a bit.

I'm also checking out the ship of fools website each day: they have 40 suggested Lenten activities. Ship of Fools is never too pious or earnest, so I have high hopes.

Giles Fraser has also encouraged me to be less 'purpose-driven'.......and I think I'll enjoy that!


Andy said...

Gave up coffee last year, but mostly in an effort to reign in my over-consumption, and lent seems like a good time for "re-orientation". Found it well hard though. It's had lasting Benefits though, I definitely drink less coffee now then I did before the last lent, which is good.

I like a project for lent though - it makes it a bit more meaningful for me - and definitely helps me to focus on God a little bit more and to remind me that I can do without stuff.


Mel said...

Rich and I are attempting to give up snoozing for Lent. We're trying to set the alarm for a sensible time and get up straight away without pressing the snooze button continually, making use of the extra time gained by not snoozing to work through the Ridley Lent book together and pray. We haven't been too successful so far, but tomorow is a new day...

Rich Burley said...

I'm supposed to have given up lie-ins and sweet stuff. The second has been much easier than the first.

There are lots of things I like about the Church calendar, which for a while I was taught was legalistic and pointless. I like Lent partly because of the sense of history - you're following in the footsteps of Christians through the ages. I wonder what there would have been to 'give up' for people like us in the 1600's, say.