The past few years I have taken Lent pretty seriously in my life; partly this is due to a renewed and reborn faith from the age of 17, but more recently it has been about remembering that sometimes sacrifice can bring you closer to God by reminding you of His heart for those who don’t have much.
Easily the hardest to keep up with was when I was about 20 and I gave up meat. This wasn’t because I’m massively obsessed with meat-based meals. Instead it was because I was in student halls, and being lactose intolerant had already had to cut out the dairy products in my diet. This meant that when queuing up for dinner I would find that the veggie options were coated in cheese and I couldn’t have them. So I’d figure out which option I could have to give me the most food on my plate that I could eat, and went with that.
The reason I chose meat was because I wanted to sacrifice the choice. I realised that I had likely never really been that hungry (excluding a Slum Survivor challenge) and so in order to bring myself closer to the poverty many face I gave myself quite literally a lack of choice. No meat and no dairy left me very few options and so I quickly learnt that whether you liked what was on your plate or not – if you were hungry, belly-rumbling-stomach-about-to-eat-itself hungry, you would eat whatever you could get.
I learnt very quickly why Lent was so important to the Church as a whole. It was mostly strongly a time of sacrifice, prayer and loving your neighbour.
Sacrifice is pretty simple to explain: Jesus had 40 days in the desert, preparing Himself for the time of ministry He was about to walk into. He was tempted and teased with options but ultimately it brought Him closer to the Father, closer to His people. We imitate this action by giving up something to God, fasting that which we do not need, to get closer to God’s will for us. This is justice towards self.
Prayer is something which is likely only increased during Lent for those within a Church or spiritual group. It is amazing how close you can get to God when instead of watching that extra TV program, or going out for a smoke, or making your favourite chocolate cake, you hand over your time to Him. Simply talking and listening (probably more important to listen really) is a key foundation of any relationship, and so why we sometimes put prayer to the side I don’t know. This is justice towards God.
Possibly, the most sidelined part of Lent is loving your neighbour. It is obviously something we are all meant to do, but in some Christian traditions people use the time that they may have spent on whatever they gave up, and instead volunteer for a charity, help out their friends, family and neighbours. This is justice towards neighbour.
This year was a little different: this year I am married and therefore (particularly concerning food) it’s a little difficult if you haven’t given up the same thing. The support is wonderful, being able to do things without the fear of tempting the other person is great. However, finding something that could be of equal sacrifice is extremely difficult.
Cheese for my husband could be a love higher than me.. almost. Yet, the fact that I firstly, don’t really like cheese, and secondly, for previously mentioned reasons shouldn’t eat cheese, may make it a little too simple for me.
Chocolate is another that we both like, but actually don’t eat a vast amount of. Our budget hardly stretches to tubs of ice cream, or giant boxes of sweets, so instead it is a luxury and one we rarely have. What’s the point of sacrificing something you barely use.
The third, sadly impractical, option was Facebook/twitter/one of multiple internet options. The main problem, and the deal-breaker, was the fact that my husband is studying a computer-related course that strongly relies on the internet, and I, likewise am involved in YoungLives where A LOT of my correspondence is through email, twitter, Facebook, Skype, etc.
So meat it was.
Continued in Part 2..
- Lent – What are You Giving Up? Please Don’t Say Facebook (fox4kc.com)
- Bruce Friedrich: A Suggestion for Lent from UK Bishops: Make it Meat-Free (huffingtonpost.com)