Why What We Give Up for Lent Should Not Last Only 40 Days

As Easter Sunday approaches within the week, it is exciting to finally get to eat or drink (or do whatever!) we gave up for the Lenten season. Lent is nicknamed the “Bright Sadness”—a period of grief in which many people fast, pray more, give more, and focus on clearing their conscious’ from previous faults. While it is more often than not associated as a time of sadness, a better outlook is considering Lent as an opportunity for renewal—a clean state, starting a new, and continuing on the path He has set out for us. Many compare this to say, a New Year’s resolution; for example, your reasoning for giving up what you did could be, “I’ll give up sweets for Lent and then I’ll lose weight”. Do not get me wrong—I have a similar mentality, but as these 40 days come to a close, I realize our intentions for Lent should result in a purer outcome, and last longer than just 40 days.

The days between Ash Wednesday and Easter are not simply just for fasting: giving up foods we eat more often then we should. This stretch of time also includes:

  1. Prayer—talking to God, giving thanks for what we have been given, and asking for whatever we, or someone we know, may need.
  2. Almsgiving—giving to those who need something more, or just need someone there. If you are able, give thanks and give to those who are not as fortunate.
  3. Penance—recognizing our past faults, mistakes, and the times we may have slipped-up. This one, despite what it seems, is one of the hardest things to do. Asking for forgiveness is never easy, clearing our conscious however, and letting out all we keep in, is exhilarating.

Every year, for as long as I can remember, I have simply given up a type of food for 40 days, and thought nothing of it but eating that food and getting a basket full of treats when the days were over. I was never fully experiencing the season of Lent, nor grasping even the concept of it. I have learned that, for lack of better words, this is a time to set aside. We are encouraged to redirect ourselves to the path we may have strayed. As college students, it is easy to get wrapped up in all life is offering us right now. I too have distanced myself from the Lord in one way or another. Ever since I started college in the fall, I have been attending mass less and less, spending my Sundays sleeping late and staying home. I continued to pray, but not as strong or as intentional as I should have. This Lenten season turned things around for me, and I started listening for God’s word—for his message and directions for me. I put my heart in a better place in regards to him, and found this season to be a time of renewal for me, and it can be one for you too.

If you think back to the first time you learned the actual meaning of Easter, you will remember hearing the story of Christ’s death and resurrection. His suffering so that we may live among his beautiful creation. If he can do all that for us, we can focus 40 days on a purpose bigger than ourselves. And if we truly live out these 40 days with all its intention, it will last longer and carry on throughout the rest of our days.