If the more regular things (Facebook, chocolate, alcohol or meat) just aren’t floating your boat as you prepare for the Lenten season, here’s a list of some stranger things that you might consider fasting from this year.
Okay, so salt itself isn’t that weird, but giving it up for Lent probably is. Fact is, we’re a society addicted to our own tastes, and being able to change the way food hits our palate any time we want to. With almost half of the world’s population living on less than $2.50 a day, that’s a luxury most people don’t have. Consider giving salt up for 40 days. Every time you think of reaching for that shaker, say a prayer instead.
The Pet Name For Your Spouse or Partner
Yup, this one’s definitely a little bit weird. Why give up a term of endearment? Perhaps because the last time you used your partner’s first name was when you were angry at her, or when you had to call to him from across a crowded room. Psychologists have proved that everyone’s favorite word is their name. Consider how much more loved your spouse will feel if you spend 40 days addressing them with their given name. In addition, it may sound like a small thing, but pet names sometimes allow us to depersonalize under the guise of endearing ourselves. It’s a lot easier to ask “love” to do the dishes or let the dog out than to ask the person that lives with you day in and day out.
Again, this is a list of weird things to give up (not normal things like alcohol or chocolate or Facebook). There are millions of disabled folks around the world who are not able to open doors for themselves. In general, our world doesn’t make much space for them, and only a small fraction of doors actually have handicapped access. Consider giving up being able to open any doors for yourself that don’t have handicap access. That means you have to wait for someone to open them for you if there isn’t an automatic opener of some kind (you can cheat and use your kids if you want.) You may need to make it a little easier by exempting yourself from car doors or doors in the house, but consider fasting from doors as a way of entering into solidarity with the more invisible among us.
Your Pillow (Or Your Bed)
Of the 1.9 billion children in the developing world, 1 in 3 of those kids live in housing situations that are inadequate for their needs, while we sleep on California Kings and complain about thread count. Give up your pillow for 40 days (or to be more extreme, your bed) and live in the knowledge that the privilege of a pillow is not given to everyone. It’s also a choice to live in communion with Christ, as He described Himself in Matthew 8 and Luke 9: “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
Didn’t see that one coming, did you? So many of us live with a vague feeling that we’re not doing prayer “right” or that we’re some how not spiritual enough. Lent can up the ante even higher, making us feel like we’ve got to do something extreme (see the above pillow example, even) in order to be “worthy” or doing Lent “well”. How about tossing all of that aside and trusting that God really is on your side for 40 days? That means that if someone asks for prayer, you have to say no. It means that you’re released from the guilt of missing a “quiet time” or needing to pray for those suffering in your city. It doesn’t mean you don’t care, and it doesn’t mean you fail at this fast if you find yourself spontaneously praying one day. It just means that you’ve gotten off the guilt cycle and chosen to believe that Christ really did mean to set us free for freedom, not for more guilt and condemnation. Alternately, you could give up a particular form of prayer for Lent. If you’re always an extemporaneous pray-er, try taking up liturgical prayer for the season, such as the Divine Hours, the Jesus Prayer or prayer using the Book of Common Prayer. If you’re more liturgical in bent, consider spontaneous or even one word prayers (thanks, grace, gratitude).
The advent of social media and the advances in technology have put tiny little cameras in almost everyone’s pocket. It’s actually difficult to get a phone WITHOUT picture-taking capabilities these days. Our lives are increasingly documented, and all too often we’re thinking about how to photograph a great meal, experience or encounter in order to post it on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Foursquare. Perhaps instead you might give up taking pictures of your life during Lent, and instead choose to be immediately present to the things that you’re in the middle of. If that causes you some mild panic (like you might miss out on something by not capturing it in pixels instead of memories), then this fast might just be for you.
There are lots and lots of things that you can give up for Lent, from the mundane (chocolate) to the more, seemingly, ridiculous (shoes). Ultimately, the purpose of giving something up for Lent is not to be spiritually muscular, but to let God gently challenge your own assumptions and idols. In the course of Lent’s desert time, the hunger for those things that you’ve relinquished will lessen, replaced by a fulfilling relationship with the One who loves you and gave His life for you. And that’s the real reason to give up anything at all for Lent.