When you grow up Catholic, Lent is a very big deal. And when you’re a child, it’s an even bigger deal, because you can’t imagine giving up bubble gum, candy bars, or teasing your younger brother for nearly six weeks — OK, 40 days, if you want to be precise. And if you want to be even more precise, 46 days, because we don’t count Sundays. This year Lent began Wednesday, Feb. 17, and it ends on Easter Saturday, April 3.
For me, for decades Lent meant “giving something up,” like chocolate or cigarettes or wine or swearing for the duration. It was a time to give something up that I really cared about so that I could be more in tune to the suffering Jesus was going through before He died on the cross and then rose on Easter Sunday, a way to sort of commemorate that horrific part of His life. The least I could do was give something up for 40 days every year, He died for me after all. I pretty much still feel that way, that 40 days is the least I can go through, but of course my concept of “something to give up” is hopefully a little more advanced.
Nowadays I think more about giving something up because there is so much I have that I don’t need. My hourly check-ins with Facebook, my $300 weekly grocery bill that could surely be reduced, my pedicure every couple of months, my Netflix and Amazon Prime video memberships, not to mention my recent Discovery Plus addition. It’s like I’m the Queen of Sheba over here in Vineyard Haven. Just the amount of consumption I’m used to makes me have second thoughts about exactly where I am in the Jesus/Lent/Easter scenario.
It’s not like I’m a huge consumer who takes out loans just so that I can drive a Mercedes or a Porsche or something. I’m a little more reserved than that, at least in my mind. But I’m still very much a consumer. It makes me think about the way things must’ve been all those years ago in Jesus’ time, and it makes me think about Buddhism and minimalism. It makes me think I’m just way too comfortable in my way of life, and it’s wrong that I could possibly want more.
Look at all the good Jesus did and the legacy He left behind, and the legacy of all those in the Old Testament for that matter. How much did they need when they had God, who fulfilled those needs that were most important: love, joy, acceptance, hope, and all the others. They made out just fine, in fact they were conscious of their blessings and hopeful about their future; if they had a real need, they knew God would take care of it. They had faith.
Where’s my faith, I wonder? What would happen if I bought frozen veggies instead of fresh, and saved some money? What if I canceled all those television subscription services? What if I gave up Facebook and my very nice (but a little dated) iPhone? What if I waited even longer to get new shoes or new sweaters? Do I really need them? Would it affect me in any real way? The whole idea of it makes me want to try it.
I bet there are so many of you who are head and shoulders above my new thought process, and if you are, please let me know how it’s going. I have a feeling this way of thinking is not only important for me spiritually but also emotionally, economically, and environmentally. I’ve got some work to do.
I am aware of God’s role in so many areas of my life, it’s time I made myself more aware in the everyday ways He makes it better. To me, that’s a good start to Lent.
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