Lent 2014-1: Put Down That Cookie

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, which means that Lent has officially begun.  Usually my Facebook feed is filled with people discussing what they are giving up for Lent, or other people discussing how annoying it is for people to discuss what they are giving up for Lent.  I have to say, this year, I have not seen many of these posts.  I also have not had as many people ask me what I am giving up, which is good, because I’m not giving up anything.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t believe in it, so to speak, or that I don’t think it is a good practice, it’s just that I have found that Lent and I have a different agenda. 

Lent, to me, is like the really amped up version of a New Year’s resolution.  If you ask people what their New Year’s resolutions are, most people will say things like to lose weight, exercise more, pay off their debt and so on and so forth.  New Year’s resolutions are vain, superficial, and concern matters of the flesh, and I love them and make them every year.  But… Lent is different.  Lent is my time to make different resolutions. Lent is my time to focus my energy on my spiritual path, to examine who I really am as a person, and to determine if I am going in the right direction to fulfill my purpose here on earth, or if I have been led astray.  Lent is a time for introspection, retrospection, and thoughtful consideration to the idea that someone, Jesus, gave His life so that I may live and what I have, or have not, done to be worthy of that sacrifice. 

A very good friend of mine decided to give up sweets for Lent.  I walked into our break room today and found her eating a cookie (which she had specified counts as a sweet).  Without really thinking about it, I took the cookie from her hand and threw it in the trash.  At first she was confused, but then she remembered and said, “Oh my gosh, I wasn’t even thinking about it.  It was just there and I took it.”  As soon as she said that it hit me, that is what Lent and the practice of giving things up is really all about: conscious thought, conscious sacrifice, and conscious choices.  Lent isn’t about having a 100% success rating.  God doesn’t care if you slipped up one day, I promise you. 

Each day we go about our lives and so much of what we do is routine.  We drive the same way to work because that is the way we have always driven. We eat the same foods because we are comfortable with them and don’t want to put forth the effort to try something new.  We have the same relationships with multiple people, sometimes over and over again, because we know exactly what to expect from that person and how to respond in the same situations that inevitably present themselves. We do these things, not because we want to be boring, or predictable, or lazy, or comfortable, but because we have forgotten what it means to engage in conscious thought.  We make bad decisions that lead us towards sin and we do it without even thinking about it, and that is the problem. 

So this year I am trying something new.  I am not giving anything up.  Instead I am practicing thankfulness, I am slowing down to examine my decisions to determine if they are due to habit or to actual choice, and I am meditating on the sacrifice that was made for me and what I will do each day to both honor and earn that sacrifice.  If you are giving something up for Lent, I support you.  However, I encourage you to tell yourself one thing each time you abstain from what you have given up.  Each time that you are presented with the temptation, I want you to take a moment and consciously reject it and say to yourself, “I am refusing this temptation because I am making a different choice and choosing to walk a different path.”  Gradually, over the course of 40 days, you will find that it is much easier to say that to yourself in other situations as well. It will become easier to walk away from a bad relationship when you make the choice to walk in the path of love, light, and support.  It will be easier to choose better foods when you make the choice to honor the life that you have been given. And if I’m wrong, well, at least you will probably have lost a few pounds by cutting out the sweets and you will be back on track with your New Year’s resolutions. 

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Dana G.
    Mar 08, 2014 @ 01:06:30

    Absolutely LOVED this post. You are a strong and eloquent writer…which only made the words resonate more.
    Today, you made an impact…where you never would have imagined. Thank you from the bottom of my ♥.


  2. Pat
    Mar 08, 2014 @ 04:48:41

    funny that I went to mass today with my parents and the priest had the same surmon. It made sense, We should not be “giving up” something only to go back to it as soon as Lent is over. We should be bettering ourselves in the process and trying to return the love that Gbd has shown us through being kinder to others.


    • atlaslaughing
      Mar 08, 2014 @ 05:09:12

      I absolutely agree. I think that is partly what drove me away from being a practicing Catholic. I didn’t always want things to be so somber and serious, I wanted more of a celebration of God’s love and sacrifice.


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