There is a lot of cynicism around Lent: giving up Lent for Lent, doing it out of tradition, giving up fairy stories, myths and bullshit, deliberately eating and drinking more. Now this is all very well, and very funny, but it’s the very stuff I’ve been saying since I was 15. I never did like being told what to do and when to do it. This year, however, I am in a place where I am willing and able to change something for 46 days. And while I still do not like being told when and how to do things, I am simply being inspired by the cause of Lent to take this time to improve myself.
When I was young I used to attempt to give up chocolate, sugar, TV… I did it religiously. Just like many others. Then there are the people who give up sarcasm, Facebook, swearing, junk food etc. Are these real sacrifices? Lent, like much of the teachings of the Christian church, is based on goodness, humility, kindness, empathy, self-control; being true to yourself and neighbours, fasting, abstinence, discipline, living spiritually, to change the routine for a few weeks: this is what Lent is supposed to be about for Christians. And, like many aspects of Christianity, there is nothing wrong with any of this.
I’m aiming to give up some small things, yet no less difficult: giving up alcohol (which in turn should help me stay off the cigarettes as I’ve done mostly successfully the last 4 months), giving up coffee, eating out and generally live more frugally. These are things I have difficulty doing; unlike giving up heroin. But why? Because I don’t like to take things lightly, and do anything out of “tradition”. I aim to do things deliberately, out of passion and because I want to. I’m far from perfect, and this is just another time in which to perfect myself. By setting myself just another challenge. To discipline myself. For myself. Piggy-bagging of this Catholic/Christian calendar event, if you will.
Like Christmas today, there is very little of Jesus and the bible in many people’s interpretation of Lent: Jane Williams put it very eloquently in the Guardian: “…there is really no point at all in a Lenten discipline that isn’t about re-imagining the world so that it revolves less about our own desires and more about the good of all. When Lent ends, that vision of the world doesn’t.”