Let’s be honest. For most of us, Lent is just a diet sanctioned by Jesus. Lent is supposed to be about sacrifice for the purpose of penance. Are we truly showing penance when we give up chocolate in order to fit into our spring clothes?
When I decide to give up sweets every year, it has much less to do with the atonement of my sins and much more to do with the fact that the impending spring is a reminder that swimsuit season is around the corner. Plus, there are so many loopholes. Last year, I gave up wine…and promptly filled the void with bourbon. You know, just as Jesus intended.
The fact that everyone treats the day before Lent like they’re heading off to rehab in the morning is also pretty questionable. For instance, I’m pretty sure the Holy Spirit doesn’t approve of the way beads are distributed on Fat Tuesday. Yet, there I was last night, laying on my couch having my own little Mardi Gras that involved guzzling wine and demolishing a bag of Tate’s chocolate chip cookies. Because, yes, my Lent Diet starts today and I needed to get my last fix. But it also got me thinking that this year, I should do more.
This year, as always, I am giving up sweets and second helpings (as a friend mentioned last week – if you’re not Italian, you may not understand that there are grown women in this world that eat like this). I am also adding “drinking at home” to the list this year, which I fear makes me sound like someone who needs more help than Lent has to offer. When I consider my list of sacrifices, one thing is plain to see – – every single one of the things I am giving up is to help me lose weight. It seems I am giving up gluttony and replacing it with vanity.
I have decided that that is okay. I am going to stick to my Lenten promises. Because they are good for me. My ability to binge on anything containing simple sugars is out of control. I eat enough carbohydrates in one meal to feed a family of 6. And, okay, maybe I drink too much wine. Plus, I am training for a half marathon, and all of these sacrifices will help me accomplish my goal of, you know, not feeling like I’m going to die while running 13.1 miles. Giving up these unhealthy habits for 40+ days (Sundays don’t count, but I’ll keep to my Lent Diet on them anyway) will benefit me, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still sacrifices. So they remain.
But this year, I am going to do more. This year, Lent will not only be about me. I am going to “give up” more than sugar, alcohol, and carbohydrate units. This year, I am also going to give up my time, my energy, and my things. And I am going to give them to people who need it.
This Lent, I am going to ensure that, every week, I devote time to do at least one thing for others. Whether I volunteer at a local charity or donate goods to those in need, Lent is not going to be all about me this year. This week, I am finally going to bring the bags of clothes we have been hoarding in our upstairs hallway to Goodwill. Next week, I am going to bring my kids grocery shopping and then drop off after school snacks at an incredible local charity that feeds kids in a cafe setting. Who knows where I’ll go from there!
One thing is for sure, come Easter, I’ll be the gal with the slim pants and the full soul. Because my Lent Diet is going to make my body starve, while it serves my soul a feast. Who wants to join me?*
*Just to clarify, I mean the service part. I would never be so cruel as to ask any of you to give up drinking wine at home. I’m not an animal.