So. It’s Lent. What are you giving up for Lent? Do you do that? Did you ever?
I never understood the theory behind giving things up for Lent. I mean, I grasp the concept, but I don’t get it. My mom went to parochial school until high school. There has been discussion, on occasion, about how, way back when the “no fish on Friday” rule applied all year long. Until the Pope changed his mind. I never got that, either. What should I be learning by not eating fish on Friday? Does God really care that I stop eating chocolate until Easter? I am not the type of person who knows how to fast. Fasting just makes me hungry, it has never brought me closer to God (not that I have tried very often), and really, when I am hungry or I just want chocolate, it doesn’t make me want to pray or reflect on the blessings in my life. Am I just a whiner? Maybe I should have gone to Sunday school more often as a child…
We used to talk about how it would be smart to work on doing something good (being nicer to my brother, for instance) or not doing something bad (being mean to my brother, for instance), but funny how I don’t remember it getting much beyond the talking stages.
What would make Lent and its giving up things mean more to me? not sure. But there was a guy on NPR this week that I thought had the beginnings of a good idea. The man who was telling the story is a Jesuit priest and when he was in college, he had a Jewish friend who didn’t really get the Lent-thing, either. The friend suggested that it would be more impressive if you allowed someone else to decide what you would be giving up for Lent. It was agreed, and every year since, the man receives a phone call from his friend on or around Ash Wednesday, telling him what he will be abstaining from for the season of Lent. (is it a season? if not, it is now, cause I don’t know a word that fits better)
I like this plan, though I would rather my friend come up with something positive that I should work harder on doing during Lent. Maybe I beat up on myself enough without Lent and that’s why I so want it to be a positive “doing” rather than a negative “giving up”. And it is usually tough to come up with something on our own that isn’t too easy or too hard (both for the “doing” and for the “giving up”). A good friend should be able to strike the appropriate balance and a good, honest friend might help you to become a better person.
When I was looking for a job when I first moved here after getting married, I had a couple of other friends in town that were contemplating their futures. We would get together for coffee and share our goals for the day or week or month. It was helpful to have someone to be accountable to for actually getting those cover letters written and resumes emailed and thank you notes for interviews sent out. It was also helpful to have friends who would tell me that I was being unreasonable in my expectations or that I was procrastinating and wasting time when I should be going after the opportunities I was writing off. I think Lent could be that way and I would understand it better then.
But back to the NPR guy. His friend dropped the ball. His list of things over the years included orange soda (lame and overdone) and oregano (interesting, but mostly annoying) and this year, the list is popsicles, pumpkin seeds and meatballs. I don’t think God cares, but then again, maybe I’m just missing the point.