Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent.
For you non-Christians (hey, thanks for reading!), Lent is the time from Ash Wednesday through Easter where believer prepare themselves for Holy Week (Maundy Thursday, in remembrance of the Last Supper; Good Friday, in remembrance of the crucifixion of Jesus and Easter Sunday, which marks the resurrection). It lasts approximately 40 days to symbolize the time Jesus spent fasting, meditating and reflecting in the desert while preparing for his public ministry, all the while being tempted by the Devil. Sounds like a ball, right?
In other words, it’s the time some denominations of your Christian friends give something up, usually something seen as a “luxury.”
Catholics (and perhaps other Christian religions? Someone help me out here.) also abstain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays during Lent; some even take to fasting.
However, a lot of people who take part in Lent do it for, to put it lightly, the wrong reasons.
Isn’t there anyone who knows what Lent is all about?
Sure, Charlie Brown. I can tell you what Lent is all about. Lights, please.
To put it simply, Lent is a period of reflection and preparation. While some Google searches might lead to you sites saying it’s about guilt and self-loathing, I have a slightly different view. While we tend to stray away from focusing on God between work, family, busy schedules, vices, etc., Lent is the time for realigning ourselves with Him and really focus on the fact that Someone died for you so you don’t have to go to hell for sinning.
As in, that tiny, widdle white lie you told to your mom yesterday? Sorry, lying’s a sin. You’re going to hell, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Or whoops, you looked at your best friend’s Porsche and wished for a few minutes it was yours instead? Sorry, coveting’s a sin. You’re going to hell, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Except that you can. Because He Who Isn’t Given Enough Credit willingly died so you can do something about it.
So really, you should say thanks.
Anyway, to me, the idea behind Lent is to give something up that takes your focus away from God and Jesus so you can use that time to refocus on what’s (who’s) important.
This year, I gave up drinking wine on weekdays. Because I have a habit of drinking wine every day – and not just the recommending 5-ounce serving. Which means the evening usually ends in me painting my nails and falling asleep early.
Big Sister gave up Twitter. As a PR pro, I’m not sure I could actually pull that one off – but it’s definitely something that could pull your focus away from God. I wish you the best of luck, Sis.
Some people tend to kind of stretch the rules.
What Lent is not.
1. Just a Catholic thing. I grew up Presbyterian, and many of us from my church observed it. Other Christian-non-Catholic denominations do, too. So don’t think you can’t give something up just because the Pope means nothing to you. (Hey, I’m sure he’s a nice guy, though.)
2. A diet. This one probably bothers me more than anything else – and I’ve definitely been guilty in past years. Lent wasn’t established as an attempt to resurrect your resolutions, believe it or not. So while you might say you’re giving up anything with sugar in it (and FYI, that’s nearly impossible. Just sayin’.) as a way to get closer to God, we all know you’re just looking for an excuse to crash diet in time for swimsuit season. We all know.
3. Easy. Giving up the food you hate or a behavior you rarely do is not the point of Lent. Oh, you loathe Brussels sprouts? (And why, might I add? They’re really not that bad.) Don’t say you’re giving them up for Lent. The joke’s been used before, and it’s not really that funny. Not giving up swearing because you don’t think you can do it? Why not just try? Think of Chris Martin (he’s sexy, it’s hard not to.): Nobody said it was easy. And if it is easy, that just isn’t the point.
So there you have it. Yes, we’re already a day in to this Lenten season, but it’s not too late. If you feel called to abstain from a substance or a behavior in order to reconnect with The One Who Died For You, please do. If not, I hope you’ll consider it one day.