Let’s make something clear.
I am not a Catholic.
This is something that my mother tries to force down my throat every year around this time, when I start talking about what I might give up for Lent. “You’re not Catholic!” she says. “You were raised Baptist! You’re not supposed to give up anything!”
I was in college when I first encountered people close to me that observed Lent. Sheltered as I was, I had a lot of questions. It was a few years, but after much deliberation I started giving up things for Lent as well. At first it was the more popular sacrifices: chocolate, alcohol, salt, swearing. Not too difficult, seeing as how I don’t go to chocolate first, don’t drink much (I was the permanent Designated Driver in college), I don’t add salt to my food, and at the time I was on a righteous kick so I rarely swore. Plus there was always Sunday, which as a feast day was the day where you could indulge. I made up for the prior week with mimosas and horrid food at brunch! 🙂
As I grew older, there were years where I halfheartedly made Lenten sacrifices. Candy. (Don’t really eat it.) Sex. (Wasn’t having it anyway.) Smoking. (Never smoked in my life.) Going out and partying. (Never partied–I was working three jobs, so when I had free time all I wanted to do was sleep.) Then, about five years ago, I finally got serious. What is the point of sacrificing something if it wasn’t something that was difficult? You could go one step further and use the time you would normally spend on the sacrificed activity reading the Bible or meditating or praying. Granted, giving up something like salt doesn’t exactly give you the same opportunity to dive into the Word that giving up TV would, but there is the thought.
For a few years, the hard thing for me was giving up sodas. Diet Coke, Caffiene-free Diet Coke–yeah. I had a serious habit. So I instead switched to two liters of iced tea a day. Granted, it was decaf with Splenda, but it was still lots of water. Which I still do. People at church laugh because I always have a liter of water in my hands.
Last year, I gave up sleep. I know that sounds weird, but it was actually very difficult for me. Unemployed, I was sleeping in every morning. Granted, some nights I wouldn’t get to sleep until 3, 4, or even 5am. But I made myself get up at 630 (I think) and be at the gym every day by 730. It was ROUGH. And Sunday, the day you can indulge, I still had to get up early for church.
I remember a few years ago, I was on my lunch break listening to Fresh Air on NPR. I forget who the guy was, but there was a man who was an Episcopal priest talking about Lent. He was saying that when he was in college he would give up soda because he rarely drank it, and it was easy. However, his friends, upon asking why he gave up stuff for Lent, said that it wasn’t a real Lenten sacrifice because it wasn’t difficult. So they were going to take on the task of choosing the things he should give up. One item for each of the three friends. He said that some years it had been hard–a good Irish boy, giving up potatoes, steak, and beer at the same time was rough. He said his friends had fun with him and that they picked weird stuff, but after twenty years (and they’re still picking) he looked forward to Fat Tuesday because he didn’t know what was coming. That particular year, the year I heard the broadcast, it was orange items–Sunkist Soda, Oranges, and Orange Popsicles. His argument was that it is much harder to give up something that wasn’t of your own choosing.
This year I am not sure what I’m going to give up yet. I’m leaning towards sleep again because I have gotten so used to no alarm that I know that would be difficult, and the goal would be to get my Bible study done every morning before I get to the gym (i.e., also GO to the gym again every day instead of just three times a week).
I know it needs to be a sacrifice, but I still have a little over 24 hours to figure out what it is going to be.