I love Lent. Not bellybutton lint. Not pocket lint. Not the stuff you find in your dryer filter. That stuff makes me sneeze. I love the season of the church year called Lent. I love the purple decorations. I love the meditative services. I find it deeply meaningful to dwell in this time as we draw nearer to the crucifixion, resisting the temptation to rush to Easter. I even like having an opportunity to review my life and find if there is anything I can give up that will make me a more loving person or enrich my spiritual life. Yes, I am giving something up for Lent this year. Or at least I am trying.
I understand why some scoff at the idea of giving something up for Lent. It can seem kind of pointless to give up chocolate for 40 days just so you can binge on that big chocolate easter bunny when the 40 days are up. Yet I think even this kind of self-denial can be of some value in our culture where we are denied of so very little. Perhaps we need a little self-denial in a world of credit cards and immediate internet access to millions of products. However, after experimenting with fasting many years back I came to realize that self-denial is more productive and even easier to accomplish if it has a purpose. I fasted for only two days, just to see what it was like, and was so miserable that I decided I would never fast again if there wasn't some point to it. I know that's pathetic, especially in light of the millions who go hungry every day. What can I say?
Moving on from my failings, I think it is helpful to choose things to give up for Lent that will bring about positive change in your life. Hopefully, these changes will last longer than the 40 days. Over the years I have used Lent as motivation to work on my cussing habit, stop watching television shows that impacted my thoughts in a negative way, reduce TV watching in general, and so on. This year I am tackling my negative thoughts directly, giving up those arguments I have in my head with people who annoy me or who I am afraid are angry at me. People are usually much meaner in my head than if I actually speak to them directly. I am hopeful that reducing the energy I spend on such negative thoughts will give me more energy for positive and productive things.
Even something like giving up chocolate can have a purpose, though. After all, the cocoa used in chocolate is only grown in far, far away places so the environmental costs of shipping it are high. Giving up chocolate is good for the environment. (Though you could go the buying fair trade route.) You could also donate any money you save to the Red Cross or some other good cause.
If you haven't given up anything for Lent yet, it is not too late to start. There are quite a few blogs out there that discuss this topic and I have seen some good ideas. Share your ideas by commenting to this blog here or on facebook. Maybe we can all gain some insights about how we can live lives that have a positive impact on the world, during Lent and the rest of the year.
Me, I am going to happily munch on chocolate while trying to think only positive loving thoughts about my husband, my children, and even my politicians. Oh, all right, I will try to limit my chocolate intake for the sake of the environment. Seems like thinking positive thoughts about politicians ought to be difficult enough. Sometimes trying to be conscientious is no fun at all.