It's not found in the pages of Scripture. It's entirely man made.
But it has worth, and its significance can range from simply following a cultural or religious series of expectations to a deeply personal spiritual journey.
Through the years one friend's son in particular is famous for quipping about giving up brussel sprouts or salmon or even homework! (smart kid!)
What's behind this giving something up?
If done from the heart it becomes a very singular exercise in esteeming the lordship of Christ over our own desire to be monarch. If not it must reach the heart of God resembling the cacophonous piety of the Pharisees of the New Testament.
John Piper in his book A Hunger for God addresses this concept in his discussion of fasting:
"The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world…The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts…They are your basic meat and potatoes and coffee and gardening and reading and decorating and traveling and investing and TV-watching and Internet-surfing and shopping and exercising and collecting and talking. And all of them can become deadly substitutes for God… For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable."
Simply put, Lent can be about pulling my eyes and hunger off an object and toward the Creator: the God who gave me this good thing in the first place. It is esteeming Him above what is desired, above my own appetites - be they for physical food or something else that satisfies my needs and instead finding satisfaction in Him.
We enter a season of Lent in these days before Easter but as God tugs at your heart about other things, not related to food or the typical manifestations of this season, do not wait for the calendar determine when you submit to His lordship.
At any time where we esteem His will and His way over our own, despite how we feel or what common sense tells us, or when we hunger for Him more than the good gifts He has blessed us with, we bring honor to His name and pleasure to His heart. And that is far greater than any religious observance no matter what the season.
What are your thoughts?
Is your soul stuffed with small things?
What good gift(s) from God do you "nibble" at instead of hungering for God himself?
What discipline will you invoke for a period of time in order to remember that your greatest desire should be for the Giver and not the gifts?