What you should give up for Lent
And with shattered pieces of herself all around, she reached for consolation
rather than attempt the painful task of picking up and reassembling her broken parts.
It has become Lenten tradition to give up something that you love every Ash Wednesday, in reverence to Jesus’ 40 day fast in the desert. Typical Lenten sacrifices include soda, chocolate, and more recently, social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
There is certainly nothing wrong with giving up a specific food or activity that you love, but I read this quote from Roman Catholic Priest Ronald Rolheiser, and it touched my heart and spoke what I feel.
“Give the angels a chance to feed us.”
Wow. I love that. Do you love that? This idea that when we remove the consolations, when we expose our vulnerability, it opens up an opportunity to be healed! Fed by angels. Did I mention I love that?
Let us consider for a moment, then, rather than the typical vice, we give up Self-Hatred for Lent. Soda is not the enemy. (Well, it actually is terribly unhealthy for you, but that is for another post!). Chocolate is not the enemy. (Chocolate is your friend.) Alcohol, drugs, Facebook – whatever your vice – is not your enemy. Removing those things from your life for 40 days will not bring you closer to Jesus, or God, or Enlightenment. Or Happiness. Removing these things may even create a sense of loss and abandonment, and may be why so many people give up on Lent long before the 40 day mark.
If you wrap your arms around a Diet Coke and feel compelled to say “My precious” like Gollum to The Ring, I would then challenge you to put down the Diet Coke, and instead wrap your arms around your self. Speak to the true precious, which is you.
I know, this is scary! It is much easier, and certainly passes muster, to simply give up a vice and say a few extra prayers these next 40 days. Resist that temptation, however. Instead, love yourself enough to take some painful but rewarding steps towards self-discovery. Give up that soda or meat on Fridays, and then pair that with giving up your mask that covers your pain. Take this time to journal everyday, and pray. Write what is on your heart. Face yourself in the mirror and forgive yourself the mistakes of your past. Find a Lenten partner that you can share with openly, someone who will not judge your journey. Be open to telling your story, no matter how painful it is or how vulnerable you feel. Start small and then let it grow.
Start today, Ash Wednesday. While we may not break down decades of fear and consolation in a mere 40 days, it is a fantastic first step on a long journey. There is true happiness in a spiritual journey, when we begin to put the broken pieces back together. A connection to something greater than ourselves. A release of ego and an acceptance of love and hope. And maybe even a chance to be fed by angels.