I’ve never “given up” anything for Lent before. It wasn’t part of my religious tradition in the churches of Christ I’ve attended. Over the years, I’ve heard – and even made – jokes about giving up watermelons for Lent (I don’t like them and they’re not in season); the tragedy of folks who gave up chocolate just before Girl Scout cookie delivery time and such.
I don’t know why. I’ve fasted with prayer several times before, especially when Angi and I were trying to adopt and were blessed with our two beautiful children.
But this year I felt challenged by some fellow bloggers and article-writers who have made a Lenten fast part of their heritage, Catholic or otherwise, and have been blessed by it.
This year I stopped drinking soft drinks at the beginning of the Lenten season. That’s forty days and six Sundays without the bubbly stuff. It may seem silly or pointless or even easy for some, but it started out to be really difficult for me.
I love Mountain Dew. I work on a campus that has an arrangement with Pepsi-Cola, and there are Mountain Dew vending machines everywhere.
I promised myself early on (myself; not God – I wasn’t sure I could go through with it!) that I’d drink only coffee, tea, water, milk or juice until Easter. Each time I felt that insatiable craving for Mountain Dew, I would pause to be thankful – if for nothing else, for the luxury of living surrounded by a veritable sea of soft drinks!
As the fast progressed, I found plenty of other things to be thankful for. And I found the craving was diminishing. After a while, I occasionally even forgot to take that moment out for thanksgiving. Oops!
I knew it wouldn’t be a proper fast, though, if I didn’t celebrate it in the spirit of Isaiah 58:1-7. So I also resolved to save the coins I would have plugged into those vending machines, and instead plug them into a fundraising can for Riley’s Warriors. It may not be quite the same as God’s admonition through Isaiah to share food with the hungry, but it does benefit families with special-needs children, giving them a free, much-needed “day off” from that intensive care through qualified specialists and caregivers. Many parents of such children spend all they have – money, time, energy, love, enthusiasm – providing that care 24/7, and they deserve a break.
My children noticed my Lenten fast right away. They know I don’t like iced tea very much, yet I was drinking it a lot. So when they asked, I told them what it was all about.
I told them that there isn’t any way I can sacrifice enough to repay the debt Jesus paid on a Friday before Easter … but this is a way that helps others a little, and helps me remember – a lot, and often.
I’ve been faithful to the fast. I don’t know if I could have been as faithful if I had tried to fast like my blogging buddy Travis Stanley, who gave up blogging. And he has been faithful, to the point that I haven’t even seen him comment on others’ blogs for the whole season.
That just might have been too much of a sacrifice to ask of myself.
Maybe next year.
Because I’ve been very blessed by this fast. I don’t see myself giving up sacrifice for Lent any more.
And I’m thankful, more than anything else, that Jesus didn’t.