I was surprised yesterday by how few people I saw with the ashes on their forehead. I really can't recall a time in my life where I didn't note Ash Wednesday and the passing on Lent to Easter since I basically grew up in the church. Long after I stopped attending church services regularly (or hell, who am I kidding, at all) I still think of the Lent period as a time to... reset?
The most profound teaching I ever received at Lent was many, many years ago but it basically said that Lent isn't so much about giving up something as it is about refocusing your faith and removing, or adding, things to your life in that vein. This is what finally made Lent click for me because I could not for the life of me understand how or why God would care if I gave up deserts or carbs for Lent. I believe this is one of those cases where the true message has gotten lost. Now, if deserts or carbs truly come between you and your relationship with God then I apologize, by all means cut them out and become enlightened, however for the majority of us I don't think this is the case.
So for many years now I've done both - give something up and add something to my life. Something to bring me closer to God, something to make me healthier in heart or mind or both, something educational or, dare I say it, enlightening? Giving up something at Lent is a perfect trial run to actually giving that item up on a long term basis so I still do it, but the adding of something to my daily routine for 46 odd days is where I feel the most growth.
Last year I gave up the following for Lent: cigarettes (unsuccessfully I might add), red meat (somewhat more successfully) and Facebook (100% successful!). I gave up all of those things because in one way or another I felt they were holding me back physically or emotionally from some other idea I had for my life. In addition, I added a daily Bible study (somewhat successful) and some quiet "me time" every day (100% successful). The Bible thing I'm still working on (though that's another post for another day) but as I struggle to reconcile the faith of my childhood to the truth of my adult existence I thought adding back in some good old fashioned Bible reading wouldn't hurt. I gave up Facebook because it is a soul-sucking, time-waste and I really should spend much, much less time refreshing my status feed than I do. Interestingly enough, giving up Facebook was the hardest thing I've ever successfully done for 46 days. I am not proud that I missed it so flippin much - more proud that even when I realized how much I missed it that I still stayed away!
This year I'm giving up beer (again) and cigarettes (also, again). I'm giving up beer because I'm really struggling with losing weight right now and I KNOW that the drinking doesn't help but I can't (won't?) give it up all together because in my own little screwed up way I feel like surviving through massive amounts of stress every day entitles me to the evening glass of wine. I just want to limit it to the evening glass of wine, or the weekend glasses if I'm being fair, and stop with the crack a beer at noon cause I'm bored and drink all damn day bit. The cigs... well THAT I am not proud of. I quit y'all - like legit quit smoking - finally! And then the husband lost his job... What can I say? When the world feels overwhelming all I really want is to sit somewhere with some friends and drink wine (see above) and smoke cigarettes. I wish I didn't love it so, but I do. Anyway, I need to quit again (before TheBoy kills me) and I figure this is a good enough starting point as any.
As for the thing I'm adding? This year its daily yoga and meditation. Pretty much the same reasons as last year - just trying something new... I wonder sometimes if I'm destined to always be studying and chasing after knowledge or if I'll ever just be content to "be". Maybe I'll know more in 46 days?
What are you giving up or doing for Lent?