I remember in high school every February when Ash Wednesday would come around; students would show up with ashes on their foreheads boasting that they would be “giving up” booze or sex for Lent. In those days of youth, it seemed more like a joke than a real religious observance.
And until a few years ago, I hadn’t given Lent another thought. Then my church began the Wednesday night Vespers services. Our Vespers services follow the Liturgical calendar of Advent, Epiphany, Lent, Easter and Ordinary time. For the last few years, I’ve participated in Lent only through getting ashes smudged on my forehead on Ash Wednesday and attending the Lenten Vespers services. Last year I thought I’d give the “giving up” something thing a go. I decided to stop yelling at my children. Um yeah, I didn’t even make it home from church that night.
But why observe Lent? I’m not even Catholic. There are many ways of expressing faith in God that the Churches of Christ have never fully observed. On one hand, disciplines such as fasting are talked about but not often practiced by entire congregations. Tithing, on the other hand, is expected and though not officially required, is often strongly encouraged. Oh the ironies! My fellowship of faith rejects many of the practices from Catholicism and orthodox religions as being unnecessary to living out a faith in Jesus Christ. Yet as I get older and essentially more complacent in my faith, I’m finding that the watered down, by the Book, legalistic traditions do little to encourage my faith.
And yet, those things serve as a firm foundation upon which I can grow and supplement with other ways of expressing and living out my faith. Which is where observing Lent comes in. That is Lent, on my own terms.
There are many aspects to the Lenten season that I don’t know about or even fully understand. The major one seems to be the practice of abstaining from something pleasurable for the 40-day period of time from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday. It’s a personal choice for each individual observing Lent. My choice was deeply personal and made for even more personal reasons. And since the choice was personal and it’s “my first rodeo”, so to speak, I’m just focusing on the abstinence part. As a friend, who is also observing Lent, quipped to me the other day, “One thing at a time. We C of C girls have to start off slow.”
Vowing to do something, or not do something as the case would be, is a tremendous responsibility. It requires self-discipline, forethought, courage and commitment. Those are all qualities that strengthen faith and relationships. I’m not sure I fully understood this as I embarked on this Lenten season but I’m understanding it now.
My abstinence item of choice is the consumption of sugary foods. Everything from my sugar sweetened coffee in the mornings, to desserts of any kind, to sodas and alcohol. For the rest of the Lenten season, I’ll write a little bit about how it’s going and what I’ve learned from it.