Lent Sucks – And Here’s Why That’s Okay

I had a friend my freshman year of college whose catchphrase was “I gave it up for Lent” even though he didn’t give up anything for Lent, wasn’t religious, and said this at all times of the year.

“Rodger do you want to order a pizza?”

“No, I gave it up for Lent.”

“Rodg, you want to go study?”

“No, I gave it up for Lent.”

 

It was pretty funny the first couple times.

 

I grew up without much knowledge of Lent – it was a Catholic thing that us protestants didn’t do.  As I got older  I met some really great people who gave stuff up for Lent.  For 40 days they would go without chocolate or coffee or swearing.  Seemed pretty cool, but I never tried it myself.  I never said much about giving things up for Lent when I was a pastor in a local church, but instead encouraged people to add something to their daily lives like practicing a different spiritual discipline throughout Lent.  As a church we even developed a Lenten Practices guide suggesting different activities for each day.  I gave things up, I added things, but they were only done either a week at a time or even a day at a time.

This year I decided to do the traditional thing and give up a vice…or two…or three…or four.  Yeah, I gave up four things that I’m pretty addicted to and let me tell you, it sucks.  And that’s okay.  I think it’s supposed to suck.  The night of Ash Wednesday, when I hadn’t even been fasting from this stuff for a full 24 hours yet, I was edgy, angry, disconnected, and completely focused on the things I had given up.  It was hard, but it was good.

I’m sure it will get easier, but so far it hasn’t.  Even today, 3 days in, I’m still overly focused on the things I gave up.  Whether there is a spiritual lesson people can learn from fasting from something during Lent is up to them, but the lesson I think we can all learn is that there are things that have a hold on us.  And that isn’t so good.

As I sit and stare at my phone screen what I can do on it instead of play games or mindlessly look on Facebook, I’m confronted with my way of being.  Why is this my default?  Why have I developed these habits?  Why do I try to escape?  Why am I not wanting to be fully present with the people I’m with?

Lent sucks, but it’s showing me something.  I may go right back to those same behaviors (I hope not) when these 40 days are over – but hopefully I learn something about myself in the meantime.  Who do I want to be?  What do I want to have a hold on me?

Lent sucks, and that’s probably the best thing about it.