My family did not celebrate or observe Lent in the liturgical way. The season of Easter was central to our Christian lives, but we never splurged on Fat Tuesday or began a rigorous denial starting Ash Wednesday.
I did, however, start “giving up for Lent” occasionally during the years I was making my own decisions about serious matters like life-long faith and partners and was I ever going to get a tattoo, which, at least so far is probably not.
I would try and fail to abstain from chocolate or Pepsi or some-such other food or treat – or maybe warm showers or (more recently) social media. And all the time, I made sure every soul I met knew the agony of my choice. I was not silent about how hard it was to avoid something indulgent or comfortable.
I felt the slightest bit more holy the days I succeeded, but the drama always outplayed the spiritual growth. Although my faith was not hollow or skin deep, my “giving up” was pretty much Costume Jewelry for Jesus, rather sparkly but, in the end, quite cheap and of little value.
This year, I’m making it more personal. As I scrolled through Facebook posts and pictures of Paczkis, I realized I needed to do something a wee bit more grown-up and meaningful. And private. Just between me and God. When I fast or give up something in remembrance of His sacrifice, I should just zip it.
I don’t think Jesus ever, not once, complained to the disciples. He never reminded them, as he crossed off the days until his death, how much He was sacrificing for them, for us, by becoming man on this fallen planet, full of people completely selfish and self-absorbed. I mean even the “good guys” were pretty rough around the edges.
Jesus lived day-to-day, essentially homeless, sheltered only by the kindness of strangers, crowded by those who wanted or wanted more, listening to His closest brothers as they bickered about greatness. He left perfection to deal with the pettiness of life and the demands of the masses, all expecting He would be what they imagined the Savior to be.
Good golly, Miss Molly.
He did it willingly and with unending love. He did it because it was the only thing big enough to solve the problems caused by people and their love for themselves, taken in by an Evil One whose empty promises bring only despair.
But Jesus didn’t gripe or moan about his ragamuffin life or what He knew was inevitable. Oh, He did warn the disciples, at least three times*. But there was no gushing about how hard His life was. No “You won’t believe what the Father is asking me to do!” Nope. Other than His heartbreaking prayer for relief at Gethsemane, Jesus kept the human dread of His sacrificial death between Him and His Father.
So this year, my lovelies, I’m going to go back to the old WWJD and give up something for Lent. But I’m not telling anyone. It’s not a big deal or clever. And I might let Tim know if needs be. But I’m pretty sure it will stay just between me and my Father.
I’ll probably mess up just like every other time I’ve tried. I’ll bend the rules for convenience,
or because of the situation,
or I don’t want anyone to know.
Weak and pitiful, I know.
But I’m going to give this my best shot. I picked something not so easy, not convenient. I picked something that I’ll really miss…
And every time I do miss it, I pray I’ll think about what Jesus went through for us. Silently, sacrificially, lovingly, willingly.