Ash Wednesday is here. It feels much earlier than usual, although I guess it feels that way every year. I’ve been contemplating what to give up this year, and it’s a real struggle. I feel sometimes that my choices are too easy, but while it shouldn’t be impossible, it should be a little difficult. I should be able to notice that something is missing and then give pause on why I chose to eliminate that from my life for the next forty days.
I thought bacon. But I don’t really eat that much bacon. Mostly on cheeseburgers when we go out to eat. We almost never buy bacon on its own for our house, although I have had cravings for BLTs in the past. Maybe we should give up eating out for Lent.
I thought Netflix. Well, at least the rerun parts of Netflix. The repeated binge watching of television series over and over and over again. The TV is constantly on in our house (less now but it’s still an issue; my habit). Netflix has taken the place of constant cable news that I gave up after the last election (2012). The problem with giving this up is that Supernatural reruns are my go-to white noise. I can do almost anything else while Supernatural is on, especially the early seasons. It’s a comfort thing. Supernatural was there when my depression returned and I needed another med adjustment. Supernatural kept me from being listless and lethargic.
There’s always the internet, Facebook and/or Kindle. I know several people who give up either the internet or Facebook for Lent. This doesn’t make sense for me since that is my family and primary school communication, I do most of my writing online in the clouds and on my kindle, so it’s much more than a crutch. For some of my family, this is the only place they get to see pictures of my kids, and I theirs. Used well, Facebook is a G-dsend.
Ice Cream? Uh, I don’t know.
Chocolate? Been there, done that.
Diet Coke? Ditto.
McDonald’s Breakfast Burritos? But I love them! I would eat them every day if I could.
Starbucks? That goes so close with my writing that I’m not sure that I could do without it for forty days. Maybe…
These are all things on my maybe list. I’ve given up some of them before. Some were harder than others; much harder.
On Monday morning, I began to read The Little Black Book. I’ve enjoyed these “Little” books seasonally, both in paper format and e-book. On Monday, it talked about fasting and abstinence (which is much different from the Yom Kippur fasting that I was used to.) One of the things mentioned was that “the church no longer attempts to prescribe Lenten practices in detail” and “choosing practices that are adapted to one’s own circumstances.” This implied to me that I was not expected to give something up if it didn’t fit with my other “penitential season” practices.
I’m not sure my priest would agree, and after the initial burst of wishful thinking, I went back to the list in my mind. It also felt a little like when I was a kid and didn’t want to stop writing on the High Holy Days because they weren’t really work. For me it wasn’t something to meditate on the meaning of; it was a cop-out. Again, that’s for my personal feelings and perspective. We all need to come to our own place this Lenten season.
Choosing an item isn’t just about the item itself; it’s about the introspection, the prayerful thoughts that go into the choosing, what makes this item important enough to make the giving up a sacrifice?
Not only that, but how is the giving up part of the larger idea of what Lent is all about – the penance and the getting ourselves ready for Christ’s sacrifice for us? Certainly, whatever we give up doesn’t compare to His sacrifice for us. It is but a small imitation, but it’s all we can offer.
So how do we continue to give.our Lenten experiences meaning year after year?
I could give up brussel sprouts. I don’t hate them, but we almost never eat them. Does that count?
The truth is, the only one who can tell me if it counts is me. Trying to get out of it doesn’t hurt anyone or change the meaning for anyone but me. Who am I observing Lent for in the first place?
The responsibility is on me because the benefit, whatever that might be spiritually is also on me.
I’ve decided to give up the breakfast burritos and ice cream. Tuesday morning was my last burrito until after Easter and Tuesday night was my last bowl of ice cream (black cherry chocolate chunk). Something from the morning and something from the night to remind me each day right after I wake up and right before I go to bed that these forty days are different.
How else will I make them different? And how will they change me for the rest of the year?
Time will tell.