So for those who follow the Catholic or Christian calendars, today is Ash Wednesday. The day after Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday). The day which begins the 40 days of reflection and self-denial leading up to the re-birth of Christ and hunts for Easter eggs. Or, per Wikipedia: “The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer — through prayer, penitence, almsgiving and self-denial — for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events linked to the Passion of Christ and culminates in Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
OR, per any website willing to tap into religion to promote their own self interests in the theme of “Healthy Living”: It is the day to renew those vows from your New Year’s resolution! Time to make that dedicated return to the gym and fight those calories and Be Healthy for Jesus!
Yeah. I have been through many a Lent where what I chose to give up was some food item which, in all honesty, I didn’t even crave or eat that often. OH, sure. I’ll give up candy for Jesus for 40 days! *Internal mental snicker. The fools! I never even eat candy!* Or, giving up junk foods or eating over a certain number of calories or….I don’t know, giving up pounds of weight for the sake of self-denial? Sounds kinda strange put that way but is what it all boils down to… instead of a pious rite of denying the self, of reflecting upon religion and life and GIVING to OTHERS, thinking outwardly of spreading love; folks (like myself) would instead focus inward, denying sustenance to the self without giving to others, with really the only true goal of being a smaller vessel of worship at the end of 40 days.
Instead of giving up a favorite (or not) food item, if you really feel like joining in the pious rite of self-denial this year, consider some options which might more accurately reflect the spirit of the intended 40 day period of “giving up”.
For instance, consider instead of a no-carb fast, the “Carbon Fast“: “sacrificing a lightbulb, or higher temperature on the thermostat? Maybe finally spurning plastic bags for reusable organic cotton totes? As many of the Christian faith begin Lent on Wednesday, one option — the “carbon fast” — could be as basic as unplugging your cellphone charger when not in use.”
Or perhaps you could take a page from the book of my own local pastor who suggested that for 40 days we each give up complaining. Consider how enormous that task might be. Could you do it for a day? For a week? For 40 whole days could you get through and instead of complaining look to the positive?
So I task you with giving up the traditional meanings of “Giving Up” that you may come to feel these 40 days are meant to represent. If you are finding yourself surrounded by these messages of “giving up” to benefit you with a supposedly 40 day thinner body but equally miserable spirit; consider ways in which you might “Give Up” to the benefit of others instead. Give up saying and thinking harsh words to yourself and about others behind their backs. Give up time to a cause you find worthy. Give up some of the self-loathing with which you treat yourself day-in and day-out and think about a world in which everyone could do the same. Give up thinking about life as merely the continual press of minutes during which you must always be thinking about the next count of calories and how you can lessen them to lessen yourself in size.
You are certainly all welcome to your own interpretations of the Lenten season and the meaning of true self-denial. For me though I feel that the good Lord (or Jesus for that matter) does not care if you’ve decided to take 40 days to stop eating white rice or cheese doodles or bubble gum. To me the entire reason for the season is to take a moment (or 40 days of moments) to see how much of an effect simple positive actions (giving time, energy, love to others) can have on your own spirit and that of those around you. And as I prepare for my own contemplations of these next weeks before my absolutely favorite holiday of the year I wonder if you will take a moment yourself to think that maybe this year giving up on giving up “things” (especially those designed to inflict mental anguish upon you in the form of dieting) could be the best feeling you’ve had in a while.