Why I'm Not Giving Up Anything For Lent

I stood within the hush of the Evensong service in Christ Church Cathedral while the boys and men’s choir sang the liturgy. On this night, the choir sang Psalm 37. Then, the minister prayed for a blessed "reordering during these Lenten days."

Ash Wednesday was a mere two days prior and everyone seemed to be giving up lattes and social media and the Internet in general. One friend defended fasting from these activities because of how they've now intruded so much on our daily lives, and there is certainly truth to that.

I want constantly to be aware of Thy overshadowing Presence and to hear Thy speaking Voice.
— A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

But what the minister said, about reordering, stuck with me. Giving up social media during Lent seemed incongruous with what Christ gave up for me. And what did his giving up mean to me?

Did his giving up not save my soul? Did it not pull me out of darkness—the darkness of me and all my anger and hate, my disdain for the church?

"Had I not changed you—the Tim of the bitter life?" the whisper echoed in the vaulted caverns within me. 

Had he not, by way of Easter reordered me?


When I surrendered my rebellious heart to God, he reordered me. The actions and thoughts to which I clung began to grow brittle and break off. I was like the old oak table that someone painted over years ago. But then the original builder of that oak table discovered me at some flea market, bought me back, and began the painful process of reclamation.

His wire brush dug deep into my cheap and flaking paint, loosening it from the surface. Then he took his sander to me and ground the paint into dust. Slowly the original oak planks peeked through and the table he knew so well, the table he fashioned with care and intention emerged.

“There you are,” he’d whisper to me, and sanded some more. “See, Tim, I make all things new.” (Revelation 21:5)

As he reclaims he also reorders. I am no longer the forgotten backyard picnic table. Now, I am the dining room table. My position before him, changed.

Everyday Surrendering

The idea of a "daily reordering" lies behind my new devotional  Longing For More.  Click on the photo to check it out. 

The idea of a "daily reordering" lies behind my new devotional Longing For More. Click on the photo to check it out. 

There is no season of Lent. Rather, there is daily life of Lenten reordering—a breathing, an acting, a living time of reordered fullness as you and I look back on our marred selves and glory in the newness. Each day vaults into glorious opportunity to praise the God who bought us back from sin. He reclaimed and reordered us.

Is it enough, then, to fast from the luxuries that so easily invade, that seek to paint over our oaken glory? Is there a danger of seasonal fasts becoming ritualistic; mere religious practice devoid of the daily fast of denying one's self. Jesus challenged, if we want to follow him, we need to take up our cross. It's the ultimate fast. And it never ends; it's our daily surrendering. 

Of course the delighted fasting of the heart will not go unnoticed. But I wonder, might we seek even deeper change, permanent change? Perhaps we should focus less on temporary fasting and more on evaluating the extent to which the world has veneered us—the extent to which we’ve allowed the world to veneer us with it's false beauties, and seek a holy reordering.

As I left Christ Church, I contemplated the concept of reordering. How might I better align my daily rhythms to God’s? How saturated are my purposes and desires in his? How obedient am I to his calling on my life? Does my fasting matter if I am not living obediently? Does my fasting matter if I live insistent upon satisfying my own cravings? 

The self denial involved in the period of Lent isn’t about just giving up chocolates or beer; it’s about trying to give up a certain set of pictures of God which are burned into our own selfish wants.
— Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

How do you approach Lent? 

Further Reading or Viewing

Recommended: "Why Study C.S. Lewis for Lent" with Rowan Williams (Video)

"Lent, Why Bother?"

"A History of Lent"

"The Early History of Lent"

Q Ideas: "Embrace Restraint: Preparing For Lent"

*This post was originally posted March 15, 2014. But I revisited, evaluated, and edited it. So far, my thinking remains the same. Thanks for reading! 

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Timothy Willard is the author of three books, including Longing For More: Daily Reflections on Finding God in the Rhythms of Life. He has collaborated on over 20 books and has written, consulted and served as spiritual director for organizations such as Chick-fil-A, Catalyst, Q Ideas and Praxis Labs. He lived in Oxford, England for two years studying beauty in the works of C.S. Lewis. He earned his PhD in Theology under the supervision of world-renowned theologian Alister McGrath. When he’s not riding the trails in the Appalachian mountains you can find him by the fire with his three daughters and his wife making up stories about Tom the back yard badger. He lives somewhere in the south Charlotte woods.