Essay: My mother’s Lenten advice

Faiths Act Fellow Carolyn Worthge reflects on some sage advice from her mother as Lent begins.

I have fond memories of Lent from my childhood, admittedly due to the “breakfast for dinner” pancake feast that took place each year in my church on Fat Tuesday. The day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season was supposed to be our day to indulge on treats before a 40-day long season of penitence, fasting, service and sacrifice that would end in the Easter celebration.

While everyone spent time deciding what they were going to give up, chocolate, soda, candy, etc., I remember my mom had a different take on Lent that has stuck with me throughout the years. She felt as though it wasn’t really about giving things up, but rather taking things on. While she respected those who chose to fast from something, she challenged me to instead do something that helped me think about what it meant to be a person of faith. For me, this took different forms. Some years, I followed a Bible devotion about social justice, made an effort to volunteer more, or just paid attention to thanking others in my everyday life. It was through these acts that helped me focus on what it meant to say I was a Christian, and challenged me to engage more with my faith by understanding how I was reflecting my beliefs to the world around me.

This is a concept that has been ever-present in my faith journey. What does it mean to be a Christian in this world, and what must I do to strive to live my faith each day? For me, this has meant focusing on the world’s poorest, and taking actions that help in the fight against poverty, disease and hunger. Lent devotions often use Romans 12 as a call to live more simply, and show love through action. Something that always stood out to me in that passage is verse 13, “Contribute to the needs of the people; extend hospitality to strangers.” As we strive to practice service this Lent, I challenge you to think about how you are inspired by your faith to take action.

This year, I do plan to make some sacrifices, as I work through World Vision’s Relentless ACT:S of Sacrifice campaign. As I take different challenges each week to learn about how to be a creative activist, my heart will always come back to serving those around me. As we prepare for Ash Wednesday, what will you take on this Lent?

This February and March, we’ll be mobilizing faith communities to take action against global hunger and malnutrition as well as global disease like AIDS, TB and malaria. If you haven’t already, make sure you sign up at to join us. Following the advice from my mother, rather than focus on giving up this Lent, join me as I explore the call from my faith to take action to help the world’s poorest.

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