Monday, February 4, 2013

Lent: It's More than just a Diet Plan

things to give up at lent
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As a Catholic, it's getting close to that time. You know that time - that time that every conversation with your Christian friends starts with "What are you giving up for Lent?" which is usually followed by "coffee", "chocolate", or "wine". The interesting part to me is this sounds an awful lot like the same conversation many of us had at the start of the new year where the conversation went "What's your New Year Resolution?" which was followed by "less coffee", "less chocolate", or "less wine". Hmm....

Lent, or the period of 40 days* beginning on Ash Wednesday through Holy Week, is a commemoration of the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the desert. The period of lent is to prepare us for the resurrection of Christ through penance, prayer, repentance, almsgiving, and self denial. 

For many, I believe the self denial is often the most-selected form of preparation with people giving up coffee, chocolate, and wine/beer as items that usually top the list. Have I done that? Absolutely. I've even made negotiations as to what actually counts as chocolate (as in candy = yes but hot cocoa = fair game). However, I'll admit it was not just about sacrifice for me FOR LENTEN was also to drop a few pounds that I gained over the Christmas holiday. Last year, my husband and I wanted to do something that really made us focus on the idea of Lent itself and not just a "diet plan". We really wanted to do something that had more of a lasting impact - at least to us. We looked at ourselves, and at the many ways to prepare for the resurrection, and realized that the combination of prayer and self denial was the perfect combination for us. (If you find it hard to come up with ideas for lent or things to give up for lent, try asking God...just be prepared when he answers.)

Our Lenten preparation? We decided to say prayers before meals. As mentioned, we wanted a combination of prayer (which this clearly was) and self denial (there was a certain discomfort we initially felt which would have been avoided by just not doing it). Now, for some of you, this is something you have probably been doing since you were born. Not so for either of us. The first night we did it, we awkwardly held hands, and said our prayers. The second night, we were half way through dinner before we remembered. The third night we had friends over for dinner and felt a range of emotions as we tried to explain our need for prayer before dinner (I guarantee we felt more self-conscious of it than they) even though no explanation should have been needed. We continued on all through Lent, and are thrilled that saying grace is now part of our regular routine before meals.  Now, we say grace each night before dinner. We say grace in restaurants as the other tables look on with mixed faces. We say grace through the sighs of family who don't share our beliefs. We say grace because it's a believe we have, because it's a way for us to express our most sincere THANK YOU to God for the many gifts we have been given through the day, because it's a way for us to center as a family, because...we do.

This year, hubby and I are trying to figure out what we will do as part of Lent. At the beginning of the year, we had the goal of reading the Bible in a year (or, at our current rate, in 10 years). I think we will commit to picking that back up and setting a specific time each evening to read together once the baby goes to bed - I think setting a specific time is the only way we will stick to it. Hey, just being honest.

What will you be doing? What have you done? 

*Interesting point: did you know that the 40 days excludes Sundays? I didn't (and of course had to count it out on a calendar) but it's true. Tuck that tidbit away for Jeopardy someday :)  


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