For all you good Fundamentalists (or average mainstreamers) out there who aren’t familiar with it, Lent is the period between Ash Wednesday and Easter where Christians sacrifice something in order to feel closer to Christ. It generally lasts forty days (not counting Sundays, can’t fast on what’s basically a mini-Easter) and people will go through some(supposed) privation as an act of penance. The privation should be something that will impact your spiritual life, like fasting, no secular reading; that sort of thing. All too often, what people do is give up something like caffeine, chocolate or soda. Which when it’s all said and done, won’t amount to a hill of beans spiritually. I suppose that’s better than nothing. Then again, maybe not. When you get right down to it, if all you give up is something like chocolate or soda, you aren’t stepping very far out of comfort zone. And, being comfortable was never in the deal Jesus offered.
There are 3 traditional practices related to Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. In the past, when I’ve participated in the big ball o’ fun that is Lent, I’ve done what I mentioned in the first paragraph; gave up soda, or some type of food. I’ve done that for the last 4 years or so, with the exception of 2007. I was undergoing chemotherapy at the time and felt like throwing up on a regular basis was quite enough sacrifice, thank you very much. This year, though, I’m doing something different. As I said in It’s Hard Out Here for a Smart-ass, I’m going to give up my smart mouth. Believe me, this is a real sacrifice, becuase I generally have a smart remark for everything. That doesn’t sound all that bad at first. But, I also have trouble with propriety. As in, I tend to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. As for how it will impact my spiritual walk, it’s going to require a lot of turning the other cheek, thinking about others and loving my neighbor. And some of my neighbors aren’t all that easy to love. I’ll probably regret this, too. I’ve been dying for one of those professional finger pointers like Ken Silva or John Chisham (aka Pastorboy) to find this blog and blow up the comments section a few times(nothing like a little controversy to build readership). It’ll be just my luck that they find it during my self-imposed restriction. Say, anybody want to be my stand-in asshole? Although, that probably violates the spirit of the law, if not the letter. Damn.
In the title of this piece, I said “…Why I’ll Feel Bad About Myself Till Easter” and I suppose that needs a little explanation. You see, I don’t have a very good track record with self-denial. I’m a huge fan of instant gratification and that extends into my spiritual life, which doesn’t work that well. I can’t manage to fast for more than 2 or 3 hours at a time; when I try to pray for extended periods, my mind is all over the place (like I’ve said before, I have a rockin’ case of ADD) and I suck at boycotts. When the UMC joined a boycott against Taco Bell because they didn’t pay their migrant workers a fair wage, I kept on eating there. I felt bad about it, but I kept on eating there. However, I do have hope. In the past, when I’ve observed Lent (? I say “observed” cause it sure ain’t no celebration), I’ve made it. I put the odds at 50/50 that I’ll actually be able to keep a civil tongue in my head.
Rachel Held Evans ended her post on Lent with a quesiton. Since I like her work, I’ll steal the idea. What are you giving up for Lent? Actually, are you giving anything up for Lent? Heck, have you even heard of Lent?