I’m not Catholic, most of my family is though, so every year I find myself pondering and practicing Lent in some form or another. As a teen and younger adult I found the whole idea stupid. I have never been big into self-denial and most of the things that people seem to be giving up *for Lent* appear to me to be self serving and usually things they ought to give up anyway.
Swearing. Now there’s one I’ve done. Picked it right back up too. Smoking....oh the failures I’ve seen here.....the last several years I gave up fast-food. Not because I thought Micky D’s made me less spiritual but because I gain a few pounds in my Winter hibernation and Lent is as good a reason as any to go on a diet. Two birds with one stone. I'm practical that way. I’ll do that again this year, but I’m not even going to try to convince anyone it is for Lent. It is to better serve my vanity and ego. It’s a diet.
Most Catholics give up meat on Friday and only eat fish (which I still consider meat....it is, after all, animal flesh). I’ll do that too, but not because its Lent or because its Friday....how about because I LIKE fish and its healthy and low in calories...and its going to be on sale everywhere. Once again, its self-serving.
I also started practicing "niceness" during Lent several years ago. Not everyday kind of niceness, but the go-out-of-your-way-to-be-nice kind of thing together with the fish and fast-food diet. I felt better. In an older blog I once asked this question of my readers and I’m asking it again today:
Can't we practice LentI think we can.in joyful giving insteadof in meaningless sacrifice?
Don’t give up biting your nails. Give up an hour to read to a child.
Don’t give up chocolate. Make a daily visit to a lonely person and share the chocolate.
Don’t stop swearing. You can do more good cussing a blue streak while you fix something on your older neighbor lady's house.
Don’t give up yelling. Start smiling at strangers.
Don’t try to make yourself less bad, try to make yourself more good.
If we really look at the reason why we give up something for Lent it is because God gave up his only son for our salvation.
Maybe the point is not in the sacrifice but in the result. Salvation. Saving. Rescuing. God made the great sacrifice. Incidently, and I am sorry for those I will most certainly offend, God’s son is there with him now. Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father even now by the beliefs of most Christians.
What really happened is that God gave. It was the gift.... not the sacrifice that was the point of it all. God gave us the gift of a second chance at life everlasting. God gave us an instructor to show us the way. God left the Word to inspire us and to give us hope. God made our lives better.
Wouldn’t it be better to practice Lent by making the effort to improve the life of someone else? Isn’t that more fitting than giving up stuff we think is going to impress God? Isn’t a quiet act of kindness more pleasing to Him than our bragging about the stupid minor little self-serving sacrifices we make year after year?
Maybe...just maybe.... God created cocoa so we could enjoy a chocolate shake.... We don’t know that God wants us to give that up. Nowhere in the Bible does it say "thou shalt eschew chocolate". We do know that God wants us to be good to each other....
9 Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. 11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. 12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
Romans 12:9-13 New Living Translation Bible
Maybe the real way to make ourselves better people is not to concentrate so much on the things we think make us less appealing and find a way to appeal to others in ways that really mean something.
That’s how I am going to practice Lent. I’d rather give back than give up. Its easier, and I feel better about it. Yep....its still self-serving.