Irving, Texas

Giving Up Lent, or I Don’t Like Parsnips Anyway

Who decided that self-sacrifice was the proper way to prepare for the solemn remembrance of the crucifixion and celebration of the resurrection of our Christ? It certainly is not what He was doing in those days leading up to Calvary. Indeed, His last days on earth were not spent in secluded self-reflection. Rather His teaching, preaching and healing intensified. And it ended with a feast! Solemn though it was. With this in mind should we rethink Lenten discipline? I’ll grant that giving up something we like or even crave for forty days can help keep our focus on the season. But, what does this do for the spread of the Kingdom, as we are called to do? I could give up cheese, which I dearly love in all forms, or parsnips, which I don’t eat anyway, but what has this accomplished other than satisfaction if I am successful in my insignificant self-denial, or guilt if I fail in my resolve? Perhaps instead of giving something up it would be more appropriate to take something on. Something that could contribute even in a small way toward accomplishing some of those things that each Sunday we pray forgiveness for not having done. What do you think? I’d love your comments.

– Dick Comstock


  1. Thanks for the “musing” Dick. I like your idea of taking something on. The last few years I have stopped thinking so much about what I am “giving up” and instead trying to “build up” my spirituality. This year I am using the book Christ Walk, A 40-Day Spiritual Fitness Program, by Anna Fitch Courie. In addition to this new adventure, once again I’ll be playing Lent Madness which is a wonderful Forward Movement online program. Check it out at

  2. So seconded! I agree with the Lenten practice of adding actions that generate more love and compassion in the world around me.

  3. I so agree, I came to the same conclusion a few years ago. Glad to know that others have discovered this as well.

  4. Good thoughts, Dick!! Since I’m a big fan of chocolate, cheese, AND parsnips, I had some mixed reactions. I’m such a self-indulgent slob most of the time that “giving up” for Lent IS meaningful to me, as long as it’s balanced by equal or greater parts of “taking on” — the combo approach. Growing in spirit is the goal for all of us, however we get there. It’s all about the Journey….

  5. I agree with your rethinking Lent discipline, Dick.
    For years, each Lent, I try to ‘give’ something rather than ‘give up’ something. When I do give up a food or convenience, I don’t necessarily feel that my maintained discipline has brought me to a closer relationship with God.

    I know it is effective and important for many people. I am not trying to dismiss other people’s spiritual disciplines.

    Each one of us is special and all of us have gifts of ourselves that we can share with others. The gift of empathy might be underestimated, but I think it is one of the most powerful of all gifts.

    It costs us nothing, except a little time away from thinking of ourselves. Giving up self-consuming thoughts has never been something I’ve ever regretted. In fact sometimes I feel like I need more practice.

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