I’ve gotten a late start on Lent this year. Mostly because I can’t think of a sacrifice spectacular enough to warrant the commitment. Just “giving up” something doesn’t seem worthwhile in itself. From my perspective the practice should accomplish something bigger than an exercise in self restraint.
A search for ideas lead me to some impressive ones in the missionary blog, LIFE TEEN.
One kid chose to forgo wearing shoes, demonstrating perhaps what in many religions could be regarded as “a sign of humility and subjection,” according to WIKIPEDIA.
Another teen gave up his car radio. Grand kudos for this kid, but he has has been seriously trumped by acoustic engineer and UK professor Trevor Cox who has chosen to avoid all music, anywhere-not just in the car. Quite a challenge for a man who is renown for engineering sound in both classrooms and concert halls as well as authoring books on the beauty of exotic, natural sounds like “creaking glaciers and stalactite organs.”
A third teenager who contributed to Life Teen decided to climb stairs rather than ride elevators-thus, adding a health benefit to the spiritual one.
And one girl, Kaitland, has decided to leave her cell phone at home each day so that she “can be more present to the people around me.” For young kids who seem to have phones surgically attached to their ears that is a rare accomplishment indeed.
All these choices may have begun as a religious undertaking but they soon become a test of personal strength and resolve, as well as, potentially, a vehicle for change.
One friend of mine has given up what she considers a vice-alcohol. I have known others who have done this as well with lovely results: Lost weight. A greater interest in exercise. Healthier eating. Increased energy. Decreased moments of embarrassment.
I have given up that friend – temporarily. Because removal of temptation is the least I can do for her as a mate.
Perhaps other, similar acts of kindness are the ticket for me.
Like making my husband happy by protecting his assets and accomplishing this Lenten season something he has been suggesting for a while now. That is, “Stop buying, will you?” But one look at a pair of baby blue, suede, very high heels in a shop window just after Good Friday, the traditional start to Lent, saw my resolve dissolve instantly.
Buying bodily embellishments are as much a habit for me as they are a pleasure.
So launching my Lenten plan required strategy as well as commitment. I realized that it was the looking that lead to the buying. So short of wearing blinders I have committed to my goal of retail restraint by speed walking past all shops, save a CVS pharmacy, for the remaining 40 days of Lent.
Still not convinced that my choice of Lenten behavior fit the Christian model I consulted an article written in Catholic On-Line by F. K. Bartels. “Why is self-denial so important for us?” he asks. “For the simple fact that we do not get closer to God by living as materialists whose lives are spent seeking pleasure, comfort and ease, while our immortal soul, which will live on into eternity, is starved. Second, due to the fact that the flesh is weak, it is easy to fall into sin…The flesh must be trained, subdued in order that the intellect and the will are able to rule over it more easily.”
Take God out of the equation for a minute and Bartel’s words still ring true. I think we were not put on this earth to suffer, but to be happy. However the sole pursuit of pleasure might not be the most effective path to joy. Drive. Ambition. Achievement. Purposeful living. They all come into play as well. And the force behind them should be as simple as the Pope’s Ash Wednesday message which is as much philosophical as religious.
“Jesus asks us to do good for the sake of good,”said the Pope.
Which, if NIKE were translating might resemble its own marketing campaign which implores us to: “JUST DO IT.”
I look at Lent like I do New Year’s. It’s a time to regroup and re-focus on being better, for as long as the sacred season lasts or until your Manolos wear out.