I made a decision a few weeks ago to observe Lent, which begins on February 18th this year. This will be the first time I’ve done so, and I’d like to attempt to blog as a way of journaling through the process. My plan right now is to post a recap at the end of every week.
Since this is my first experience with Lent, I guess it’s pretty obvious that I’m not Catholic. So why am I choosing to observe Lent this year? I have several reasons, but first I’d like to talk about reasons that are not a factor in my decision.
Reasons that are NOT why I’m observing Lent:
- Because I’m Catholic. I was raised in the Church of Christ and still attend one today, although I don’t feel particularly strongly about identifying with a certain denomination. Because of this, Lent has never been a part of my religious experience.
- Because I believe that Christians are called to observe Lent. I do not feel that Lent is a command, but rather that it is a tool which some people may choose to use if they find it helpful for their own spiritual journey.
- Because I think it will make me holier. I do not believe that any actions I can do will make me “holier” or more acceptable to God. In a weird way, you could almost say that this is something I’m doing for myself and not for God, in the sense that I’m doing it for my own spiritual growth and not solely to please him.
- Because it allows me to share in the suffering of Jesus. I’ve heard this explanation of Lent before, but I’m not sure if it’s a view held by the who actually observe it or one held by those who don’t understand it. Either way, I think it’s incredibly degrading to compare your suffering from lack of chocolate to the suffering Jesus felt while being crucified.
Well, now that that’s out of the way, I’d like to discuss why I did decide to observe Lent. I’ve put a lot of thought into this during the past couple of weeks, and here’s what I’ve come up with.
Reasons why I am observing Lent:
- Because it’s a reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice. Although I stated above that I do NOT think Lent allows me to share in the suffering of Jesus, I do think it is a great way to turn my mind towards the sacrifice he made. Every time I think of or desire whatever I’ve chosen to give up, it will be like a little post-it note reminder to think of what he gave up.
- Because it’s a physical manifestation of a spiritual matter. It seems to me that some people greatly benefit from being able to have concrete physical experiences of God, while others get along perfectly well without. I think I’m one of the former. I’m choosing to observe Lent because what is happening with the body mirrors what is happening with the soul. I feel that it will be helpful to me to have a physical expression of the spiritual.
- Because it’s a useful tool. This is sort of a re-statement of both the point above and the earlier point about how I don’t believe it’s a command. I don’t feel that everyone is called to observe Lent because I don’t believe it would benefit everyone in the same way. For me, I think it will be helpful to have a sort of kinesthetic, hands-on experience.
So what did I decide to give up for Lent? I’m glad you asked. Originally, I was leaning towards giving up sweets, because I have a major sweet tooth and end up craving them in some form every day. However, after a little more thought, I decided to expand on that and do a Whole 30 challenge (only modified for Lent, so it’s actually a Whole 40). I feel that it’s the perfect thing for me for several reasons:
- It will require conscious effort at each meal, which will give me ample opportunities for reflection.
- I like the sort of physical reflection it is for the spiritual: you’re taking careful control of your body and feeding it the same kind of things (whole, pure foods) that you want to feed your soul.
- In the same vein, you’re removing things like sugar that are pleasant at the time but are not entirely healthy. This also mirrors an ideal spiritual situation.
- Finally, it’s something I’ve been interested in doing before, but I’ve never quite had the motivation. I feel like this is the perfect opportunity to help me stick with it and at the same time receive benefits that I wouldn’t have from trying it at any other time.
Well, there are my thoughts on that. As I said, I’m hoping to post a recap at the end of every week containing my daily thoughts on how this is affecting me physically and spiritually. If anyone else is choosing to observe Lent this year, I’d love to hear your experiences as well!