What Lent means to me

Every year it seems like the Lenten season sneaks up and catches me unawares. I rarely get to partake in a Fat Tuesday celebration because I’m still working out what I should sacrifice.

beverageI grew up in a strong religious tradition; however, it was a tradition that didn’t celebrate or emphasize Lent. In my early 20s I cobbled together a functional understanding of this season by talking with my Catholic and Lutheran friends. According to the 4 gospels, Jesus fasted all food for 40 days while he was in the desert. We can’t know for certain, but I’m pretty sure he was giving up sustenance items like manna, figs, and fish. Many years down the road, I come along and “deny” myself small luxuries like Diet Coke, M&M’s, and Facebook. His sacrifices were detrimental to his physical body, and He drew upon His father for strength. My sacrifices were beneficial to my physical body, and I was just supposed to remember God a bit more than usual. My crafty mind was able to remove that dissonance with embarrassing ease.

Soon I started to feel guilty because these sacrifices felt really incredible. Give up 4 sodas a day, subtract a week of frayed nerves, and you’ll begin to feel pretty good too. Once I became vegan for Lent. I loved it so much that I stayed vegan for nearly a year. After I had a couple of Lents under my belt, I began to see what celebrating this tradition could actually do for my life. I was placing too much importance on what I needed to give up (a ritual that’s perhaps better framed as New Year’s resolutions). I learned that forgoing an earthly treasure was simply a gateway that allowed me to treasure a closer relationship with God.

Lent is just 3 days away as I’m typing this. I still haven’t decided on what I’m giving up this year. Whatever it will be, I’m eager to give it with gusto!