Lent...an annual season of fasting and penitence in preparation for Easter, beginning on Ash Wednesday and lasting 40 weekdays (Sabbath not included) to Easter.
I've practiced Lent on and off throughout the years. But this year, I wanted it to be different for me. I wanted to FEEL the purpose of Lent as I continue to search deeper into my faith and the learnings about Christ.
What could I give up that would be meaningful? So many things to choose from...chocolate (please tell me no!), alcohol (kinda liking that nightly glass of port), cheese (kill me now), hamburger (McDonald's I can give up, but a really good one??), etc., etc.
I'm still having this swelling issue in my left ankle, so I decide to combine the two...give up something that I love that also contributes (supposedly) to my swelling. Got it. Here we go...no red meat, no pork, and gulp, no chocolate.
God must be pleased with me, no? Then, I read this tweet from the Bible Project (which I have become a HUGE fan of lately). It said simply this...for Lent, what will you give up that benefits others? Huh? I never thought about Lent that way. What a novel idea. Benefit of others. This Lent thing is really pushing me now.
So, for 47 days, what on earth could I do on a daily basis to benefit others as I travel through California and Utah? This one took some thought, but I came up with two things...gossip and sarcasm. Sounds easy enough, no? Hello??? Do you not know me? Me without sarcasm? Who will I become?? Nice? Ugh....
The gossip sounds like an easy thing to give up, but think about your daily discussions with friends and family. "You know how she is"; "I saw so and so, and you should see the weight she has put on"; "I heard he got booted out of his job, do you know why?"; and on it goes. And sarcasm. A family favorite, but I am, by far, the worse offender. So much so, when I told mother what I was "giving up" for Lent, she stated, "does this mean when I tell you things, you won't have a smart alect response to me?" Yes, my mommy said that to me, and she was right. So, 47 days...here we go.
Crosswinds Cafe in Joshua Tree, California. The place to eat while in town, so I journey down to have some lunch. The guy next to me is eating an amazing looking hamburger. Red meat. No can do. I look at the menu. Salad...and not one that looked appealing on the menu to me. So, I find one thing...fish taco in a corn tortilla. Let's do it. It was good, but not great. The fries, on the other hand, were truly fantastic. I can only imagine how good that cheeseburger would have been. Temptation, and I survived it. Nope, didn't even look at the dessert menu.
45 days to go!
I stroll into Northern California to hook up with some buddies before heading to Tahoe. One of the buddies and me share a love of ice cream. I think about it...what flavor can I eat at DQ that ISN'T chocolate? Strawberry. Yep. One of my favs. But, I really like it with the chocolate flakes in it. Nope, so we skip the whole thing. Nothing Bundt cakes. Oh how I love those. We have a coupon. Must go. Oh how I love the Marble, so I order two (no, not for me). Me? I stick to the cinnamon, instead.
I meet up with another friend for lunch. We catch up and of course, discuss people in which we worked together. Serious gossiping? No. But, oh so hard not to retort with the slightest comment about someone. I do my very best to smile, reply "good for him/her" and keep quiet. Wish I could say it was easier for me...
38 days to go!
Made it to Tahoe. Finding I'm getting used to the Lent fasting, but as my friends join me, they determine my sarcasm is so common nature to me, I don't even realize I'm doing it. Really? That wasn't sarcasm, that was just the truth! Ok, I may have been backsliding a bit on my ability to hold my tongue.
I'm also finding that without my chocolate, I'm eating more than normal. Quite a bit more than normal. I discover, though, Lent isn't meant to be a punishment, but a reminder to focus on God (versus myself). Yes, even without red meat, pork, chocolate, sarcasm and gossip, I voice my daily gratitude as I have been beyond blessed. And yes, I speak with God a bit more often when there are times the pull of using my tongue inappropriately, or eating something I shouldn't is too much for me. Or, when I take a step backwards.
21 days to go!
Monday, March 27. I decide to dedicate today to cleansing my mind and body. I study more about fasting and realize Jesus used fasting when he needed time with God. He would go to the mountain and spend all night in a conversation with God. He fasted for 40 days preparing for his ministry. In other words, he fasted when he needed God's strength and guidance. 27 days into Lent, I no doubt need strength and guidance. So, I cleanse, fast, and pray. It is sunny outside and a great place to see God's splendor with snow on the ground, and the beautiful scenery. What's next for me God??
Traveling from Nevada to Utah, I decide it is possible to journey without eating fast food (typically a burger), but it takes patience (which has always challenged me) and strength. I stop at Freddy's as there isn't much choice. Wow. Burger and frozen custard. Be still my heart. I order a chicken sandwich and strawberry/banana frozen custard. Thank you Jesus!
14 days to go!
Thursday, April 13. I have mostly eaten at the cabin I'm renting in Kanab, Utah so I can ensure I eat properly. But, I really want to try one of the restaurants in town. I see the Soda Fountain. It reminds me of the old mom and pop diner within a pharmacy, so I stop. (My friends from Ada...a reminder of the old McCortney's on Main.) I order a panini without red meat or pork, but can't resist a shake. What kind do you have, I ask? Your choice of any of the ice cream we have is the response. I look. Not much of interest to me....EXCEPT the peanut butter fudge. What I SHOULD have done right then and there is pray, then order a water. What I DID was order the peanut butter fudge shake.
3 days to go...and I fail.
I can think of a million excuses, but it comes down to I was weak and lost my focus. I'm disappointed with myself, but realize the learning from my weakness. When you take your focus off God and put it on yourself, you sometimes go astray.
No question what I would like to do today. I want to stop at Big Al's Burger joint I have passed daily for two weeks. Yes, I want a cheeseburger and chocolate shake. I head into town. Big Al's is closed. It is, of course, Easter. So, I journey down the street to Escobar's Mexican restaurant (guess they aren't Mormon??). I eat a shredded beef taco. Not quite the burger I envisioned, but it will do.
Lent for me?? I realize how flawed I am as a person (no doubt, a few "amens" were just stated) but also how blessed I am and how much hope I have for the future and eternity. Fasting and focus. God is so good!
It is well with my soul.