You ever have those days where you truly crave a food that you know is “wrong” but there is just something telling you that its right?
Yesterday, I wanted a doughnut. And not just any kind of doughnut but a lemon or raspberry filled doughnut with powdered sugar on top. Warm and fresh and perfect…but that wasn’t going to happen. There are no doughnut shops in Port Townsend and, considering that it was already 1pm when the craving hit, I felt it better to hold out, have some real food for lunch and then revisit the craving afterwards. The craving never came back but I thought about doughnuts for the rest of the day, specifically ‘Why on earth am I thinking about doughnuts?’. A brief sojourn onto Facebook brought it all to light. Yesterday was over-priced doughnuts day, or Paczki Day as I know it from Michigan, better known to the rest of the world as Shrove (from shrive, meaning to confess; a time when Christians would self-reflect on what they needed help with over the next 40 days and confess sins to they would go into Lent ‘clean’) or Fat (because of the traditional practice of using up all the lard which would be forbidden during Lent) Tuesday and marking the last day of indulgence before the day Lent begins.
Which would be today.
40 days, nearly 6 weeks, of sacrifice. There is a LOT of discussion over what is acceptable to give up during this time and equally as much history behind what was given up in the past. If you were to meld all the ideas together, I’m pretty sure you would end up with just drinking water after sunset as practices abound of not eating any animal products, no fruit or wheat and, my favorite just for the wording, “[only] a small meal without vegetable or alcohol”. I’m pretty sure water is all that is left. However, in a society that is leaning far from self-abnigation, discussions of Lenten sacrifices are most often met with the question of “Why?” and, as I have found, too many of the ‘faithful’ are unable to answer the question aside from “Because thats what we do before Easter.”
But WHY is this important? WHY is it something that is done? WHY are YOU doing it? WHY is your discipline something that will bring God closer, or rather, you closer to God?
Lent is NOT a time of self denial for our own means to an end but to turn thoughts towards God when we feel that hurt, want or longing for whatever we have given up. One of my favorite authors, Lauren Winner, writes in ‘Girl meets God‘ about the Lent she gave up reading, everything except her Book of Common Prayer and her Bible, a huge sacrifice for her. She turned to prayer during those hours she normally would have spent with her books and wrote that she felt that, without her escape into books to turn her thoughts away from anything upsetting and wrong in her life, she had to turn to God. That her pastor didn’t suggest that she give up reading as someone might give up a much loved dress “…but because it might move me closer to Jesus. It might move me to my knees.”
This year, because of my feeling of crass negativity in many areas of my life, my discipline is going to be foregoing negativity and mindfully combatting it should I fail.
I’ve already failed more times than I can count and its not even 11am.
I was angry with myself for having a body that has pain and doesn’t allow me to run right now. I was irritated and snappish behind someones back after a silly phone call. I was mentally berating an acquaintance on Facebook for “X is giving up junk food for Lent. Lets see those extra pounds go away!” I was irritated at myself for failing right off the bat and needing to ask for forgiveness and help being positive within the first hour.
And then I remembered that its only day 1 and I prayed for myself and for others. That my thoughts and actions and words be uplifting for others. That not only myself would be affected by my Lenten discipline but that others would be released from negativity, mine as well as theirs. I am working on this today and for the next 40 days, as always, with Gods help. And hopefully with yours too.