I can’t decide what to do for Lent this year. Sure I can give up something, but, what? Swearing? I’ve done that but find that sometimes there is no appropriate alternative to convey what needs to be said other than a four-letter word.
Sweets — this is quite remarkable if you can really go six weeks without indulging. My husband usually chooses this, and sure enough by noon on Ash Wednesday he has already had a donut, a cookie or a few pieces of candy off of someone’s desk at the office. It always astounds me that he had the wherewithal to pass the bar exam yet he can’t remember what he gave up for Lent on the very day he has ash smudged on his head.
Alcohol — really? Why would anyone do this? St. Patrick’s Day is always during the Lenten season and unless you are a serious-serpent lover, show some respect for the legacy of this Irishman and have a little green beer.
Shopping — I gave up buying clothes for myself last year, but found the caveat of home-decorating to be as enjoyable. I must say my house looked quite lovely by Easter.
I am not trying to rain on anyone’s Lenten parade, but I don’t get how any of these sacrifices bring us closer to God. They just seem like rebranded knock-offs of cast away resolutions from a not-so-new year.
I know that giving things up for Lent is intended to remind us of the ultimate sacrifice He made for our salvation – His life. But, does it?
When you are craving a cookie (and, unlike my husband, actually remember to not eat one) are you thinking of Christ? I bet most people when opting to keep the lid on the cookie jar, are thinking more of how they will look on the beach in a few months than they are considering Jesus’s suffering in the garden of Gethsemane.
Perhaps if we decided to say a sincere prayer while everyone else is passing around the green beer, these sacrifices would do more than keep us sober. Like so many things, it seems the meaning of the tradition has been lost like a rogue jellybean at the bottom of an Easter basket.
I am not suggesting that we forgo these offerings, but that we align our intention with them so that we may be more aware of His presence. The time spent between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday should be used for prayer, penance, alms-giving and self-denial. It is meant to be reminiscent of the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert being tempted by Satan before his public ministry.
I am certain if that Samoa Girl Scout cookie reminded us of Satan’s lure we would be less likely to succumb to its yumminess.
Lent is a time to focus on our preparedness for the resurrection, and we can use these sacrifices as a means to purify ourselves. In the past I have been guilty of culturally participating without any cognizance of purpose.
It reminds me of a movie my husband and I watched recently, “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World,” a dark romantic-comedy about one man’s experience knowing that the planet would be struck by a meteor in a matter of weeks.
It was entertaining to watch people’s reaction to the world’s end — some went on selling life-insurance, mowing their lawn, or dusting furniture. Others committed suicide, participated in riots or drunken debauchery, all while the media still reminded viewers to set their clocks back for daylight savings time.
The main character, whose wife left him once the certainty of the meteor was announced, went on a pilgrimage with a woman he befriends in his building to find his high school sweetheart.
Okay, I am going to spoil the movie now, but it’s been out of theatres for months so you probably weren’t going to see it anyway. Drum roll please — the man and his new lady friend fall in love. Ta da!
Wait – I’m not done. After they finally figure out that this is the love a lifetime, kiss and make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, you know what happens? The world ends.
Yes, it really ends. One minute they were laying there looking into each other’s eyes, professing their love for one another and the next minute the screen went blank, the credits rolled and I burst into tears.
I was shocked, the world really ended. (Okay I know I have said that three times now, but I am still not quite over it.)
My husband was confused by my astonishment since that was the basis of the entire movie. In fact, while I sat dumb-founded wondering how their newly-discovered love could instantly be nullified by a giant rock, my husband kept putting the throw over his head so he could laugh at my naiveté without hurting my feelings. Sweet, I know.
While I found it interesting to consider other people’s reactions to knowing their demise was imminent, my reaction was just as absurd.
I thought because something really wonderful had just happened, that it would change everything – the meteor would suddenly blow off course and this couple would have the happily ever after that Hollywood always promised before it became so cynical.
I got so caught up in the love story that I lost sight of the movie’s premise which is eerily similar to life — that which is of this world will pass away.
Left for discernment is what becomes of us upon our death. Will it be glorious like Jesus’s resurrection? Are we prepared to be in His loving, divine arms and will sacrificing our indulgences during this Lenten season get us closer to an eternity of joy, where we realize just how inconsequential the treasures of our earthy life were?
I don’t know the right answers because too often I focus on the wrong things myself. It is easy to become distracted from the main message, to lose yourself in the love of things and people from this world.
But, I don’t want to be the one in the end feeling foolish and unprepared — incredulous that there was no tricky plot twist.
It will be as it was always written.
“The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever,” John 2:17.
Perhaps that is what we should ask ourselves during Lent– not what we are going to give up, but for whom. When you look at it like that, it’s not a tough choice at all.
Please share your comments, insights and suggestions on what to give up for Lent this year. I need some inspiration! Thank you for taking this journey with me.