Lent: Lifehack, or something more?

Anna Grummitt eats pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, ponders the recent comeback of Lent, and considers what these 40 days are all about.

Today is Pancake Day, which means that along with plenty of Australians, I made* and ate pancakes today. (*Ok, since I’m solo-parenting a toddler this week, this year we just went to a café).

Once a niche tradition, Pancake Day has become more popular in recent years. It’s a way to mark Shrove Tuesday in the Christian calendar: a chance to feast before the 40-day fast of Lent, which begins tomorrow.

It’s not hard to see why Pancake Day has taken off, but more surprisingly, Lent also seems to be making a comeback. Lots of people are now choosing to give up something for Lent: from coffee and sugar to social media – and even ‘negative self-talk!’ In 2019, an article in Forbes magazine encouraged readers to use Lent as a time to “eliminate vices and bad habits” to “improve your personal and professional life.”

Many of us (myself included!) could benefit from that advice. But in the Christian tradition, Lent isn’t a lifehack. It’s inspired by the biblical story of Jesus’ 40-day temptation in the desert and, according to theologian Dr Julie Canlis, is about choosing to enter a metaphorical desert for a time in order to create space for what’s truly important in life. It’s about giving up something to make room for something better; about embracing hardship (even in a small way) in anticipation of the joy of resurrection that Christians celebrate on Easter morning.

For Lent this year, I’ve decided to give up the thing that’s most responsible for distracting me from all that’s important (feel free to guess what it is!), in order to refocus my attention on meaningful relationships, self-reflection, and on the hope found in the Easter story.

What about you? What would you consider giving up for 40 days? Let us know below!