I'm hesitant to write about Lent, mainly due to a nasty run-in I had with a lady with the AOL handle "Buttercup" after the publication of a column in my college newspaper, but I'm getting over it and writing anyway.
Lent, according to my college column (nothing like citing yourself!), is "a forty-day period, not counting Sundays, beginning today and culminating with the celebration of Easter, a commemoration of the Resurrection of Christ. Traditionally, Lent's purpose rests in soul searching and reflection. At its earliest, Lent allowed the Christians to prepare for Easter, rededicating themselves and remembering Jesus' withdrawal into the wilderness for forty days."
In my house, we never really observed Lent, though Mom, to this day, always gives up candy, which is particularly hard on my Dad the years that Lent overlaps with Valentine's Day, and therefore his standard generously-sized heart-shaped box of chocolates. Even if Mom was already on her candy fast, she still got them. Dad and I just helped her a little more than the other years.
Lent seemed to be a bigger thing in college, so I got on board and tried to think of what to give up. One year, I gave up instant messaging (which was HUGE because that was before the dawn of cell phones), another year I gave up needless worrying. Intangible, yes, but it gave my entire spring a Scarlett-like quality of "I'll worry about that later."
In the past year, I've become more aware of what I eat, mostly because now that I live alone, I buy everything and eat everything. There's no more "sharing" with roommates where I can pretend that it wasn't me that ate the entire bag of gingersnaps in three days. But because of that, I've learned that if I try to eliminate something from my diet or shopping list, even if it's something I'm not particularly prone to crave, I will instantly feel a maddening obsession with the item, digging it out from the recesses of my pantry, sneaking it from my common workspace kitchen, and visiting the communal candy bowl far more often than on a usual day. In that case, it was chocolate. Maybe I should try giving up calcium instead.
So in light of maintaining the true spirit of Lent and focusing not on self but on Christ's sacrifice, I've decided not to cut something out of my diet or life, but to add something in. This year, I'll be sending letters, one each day, to friends and family, and also spending a little time in prayer for that person on their assigned day. I guess, technically, what I'm giving up is spare time, as it will take some to make this happen, but really it just feels like a nice excuse to tell the people I love that I love them and to hopefully make their days a little lighter through a little prayer.
Not everyone does Lent, and not everyone that does Lent does it for religious reasons. I'm fine with however anyone does Lent-- to each his own. But if you are giving up/taking on/exploring something for Lent, let me know. I'm always curious, and I promise not to tell Buttercup.