My first thoughts went to the movie Chocolat.
This is a story about a single mom and her daughter who move to a small European village. She rents a dilapidated storefront and opens a Chocolatery (Chocolate shop). Unknowingly, because she has never attended church, she choses to do this at the start of Lent.
The town is small and heavily influenced by the mayor who is consumed by his interpretation of church rules. He clearly communicates his disapproval of anyone who enters the Chocolatery with frowns and furrowed brows. The people obey with saddened faces.
Overtime the woman makes friends with the townsfolk. A few sneak into her shop and enjoy not only the delicious tastes of her wares, but her kind heart. The mayor becomes quite upset, voicing his disapproval and demands that no one speak with the woman.
At the climax of the movie, the woman gives up her business and decides to leave the village. Her daughter and people from the village want her to stay.
I won't tell you the end, but the resolution was good.
To me, the purpose of lent is to draw us close to God. We are asked to set aside something that holds our attention dearly, and instead give that time to God.
So in the case of the movie, if someone were to have a strong desire to eat chocolate daily, he/she might choose to give up the eating of chocolate for the period of lent. During the time normally spent enjoying the chocolate, the person spends the time with God either in reading the Scriptures, meditating, praying, singing, etc.
The purpose of lent is not to call attention to ourselves and how we are "suffering". The Bible tells of the pharisee who stood on the steps of the temple and prayed aloud for all to hear while the poor beggar humbled himself. God said the pharisee had his reward with the attention he garnered.
So, if you choose to participate in lent for some or all of the forty days, choose to spend extra time with God and not boasting your hardship to those around you.
The key is not giving up something you like.
Rather, the focus is on spending more time with God.
This post is brought to you by the one word: Focus
Your turn: I realize this needs to be a personal choice, but some of us might have trouble choosing something to set aside for lent. What is something you have given up for the period of lent?