Growing up Catholic, Lent was a big deal: eating meat on Fridays was sinful, Ash Wednesday Service was a must, and you HAD to give something up. In my early teenage years, I gave up chocolate or TV. Eventually, I stopped watching TV altogether even after Easter. I got on just fine without it; our family had four channels that came in through the antenna. I wasn’t missing much. The chocolate was always welcomed back!
When I became a Christian and attended a Southern Baptist church, they always looked at me funny: they didn’t do Lent. It wasn’t in the Bible nor was it part of their traditions. This was fine by me.
I hadn’t even given Lent any thought until my husband and I joined a Methodist church a few years ago. Methodists celebrate Lent in a very casual way: it’s not required, but if you feel lead to participate, you were in good company. The first year, I gave up sweets and lost nearly seven pounds! The second year I was in an emotional tailspin and decided adding one more thing to my plate when my entire life was a mess was not a good decision for my mental health. Last year I gave up sweets again didn’t lose an ounce of weight – but unlike my Catholic years, I ate sweets on Sundays.
This year I am once again giving up sweets. It’s my only real vice that I indulge in on a near daily basis and would miss if removed. I considered giving up alcohol too, but in all honesty, I drink so little that it wouldn’t impact a fast. I’ve also decided to follow my husband in fasting the whole Lent, no Sunday breaks: he’s giving up fried foods. It’s his version of chocolate and living in south, well, it’s an effort to avoid.
This fast will hopefully reset my taste buds and relationship to sweets, while focusing on the Lord. I’d love nothing more to drop a few pounds, eat less sugar, and walk closer to Jesus. I’m not sure where this Lenten journey will lead, but isn’t that part of the wilderness journey?
Today is Mardi Gras (literally, fat Tuesday in French) and I intend to send myself into Lent with style. I haven’t decided what sugary delectable I am going to consume tonight, but I am looking forward to it. I even had dessert after breakfast. C’mon, it’s Mardi Gras!
I had a pastor say something to me awhile ago that brought my brain to a screeching halt: What is going to fill the void sweets leaves? The answer was not healthy granola bars: what spiritual practices are you going to put into place in this season? The short answer is I don’t know. Perhaps carve out time for more Bible reading? Read a book of the Bible? Serious centering/contemplative prayer?
I think the answer will come to me when I’m craving ice cream.