I did not grow up observing Lent or knowing anything about the church calendar. As a “fundamental, old fashioned Baptist,” I was taught that all of that (liturty – although I certainly didn’t know the word then) was stuff that Catholics did and that it was just tradition, not religion, and that Catholics weren’t real Christians.
It does feel ridiculous to type that now, please know.
During my first summer of college I worked at a Presbyterian church in Maryland. I was one of two dozen college students hired to work with the youth group for the summer. One of the other interns was Catholic. Turns out she loved Jesus just like I did, and loved kids just like I did, and was messed up and awesome just like I was/am. Turns out it’s a lot harder to villainize people (or discredit them) when you work side by side with them every day for a summer. Thus, my mind and heart were opened and a lie I had believed for years was replaced with truth.
I have observed Lent only once in my life thus far. One year in college – I think it was my junior year – I gave up fast food for Lent. Every day on the way to and from work I drove past Arby’s, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, and McDonalds and had (have) TERRIBLE self-control. I decided to give up fast food for Lent because I spent way too much money on food I wasn’t hungry for simply because I wanted it. It was a great practice in self-control. I also saved a bunch of money and lost some weight (nobody’s surprised).
I have considered observing Lent in the years since then, but have never felt compelled to give anything up. This is probably less of a spiritual peace and more of a lack of self-control thing. This year, in fact, my life feels more balanced than ever and I don’t want to give anything up. Some of my friends are giving up Netflix and reading books. I cannot fathom!
I certainly don’t want to ADD anything, like a prayer group or yoga practice. I have spent the past couple months since making a ridiculously long list of New Years Goals/Resolutions subtracting “things” (read: self-imposed expectations) from my life.
So when thinking about Lent this year I thought – very uneducatingly, because I still don’t know much about the church calendar, except for that it’s rich in history and tradition and that makes me feel connected to the universal and eternal church in a really cool way – about the kind of person I want to be and the kind of life I want to live. Because I am feeling very balanced and content, I am trying hard to NOT work toward any particular goal right now. I am maintaining my responsibilities (and doing a pretty good job at all three of my jobs) and my reading and Netflix schedules.
In the end I did decide to give something up for Lent. Something that many of you wouldn’t even consider giving up because it doesn’t really exist in your life. Something that I’ve been thoughtlessly allowing to be a part of my life for years now.
We all know styrofoam is bad, right? It’s not good for the environment for a number of reasons but it’s EVERYWHERE here in the Dominican Republic. At the grocery store and so many restaurants and convenience stores. At nearly every get together the plates are sytrofoam. It’s at the smoothie shop and the school cafeteria. It’s definitely in the gutters, rivers, and oceans. Styrofoam (which I know now is just a brand name for puffed up Polystyrene, which is a type of plastic) is everywhere.
But I don’t want to be a party to its use anymore! So, during this Lenten season I am committed to loving the world God gave us and being a better steward of my resources by eliminating Styrofoam (as much as is within my control) from my life. That means taking my own containers to restaurants and smoothie shops, bringing my own plate to the school cafeteria and to any social gatherings, and buying loose fruit instead of fruit on those little styrofoam trays.
Obviously (hopefully it’s obvious), I’m not planning on going back to Styrofoam once Easter hits. I want this to be a life change that is followed by a much more ambitious giving up of plastic.
“You’ll never be tomorrow what you’re not becoming today.”
– Dr. Bill Brown, former Cedarville University President