On the radio this morning I heard a discussion over the meaning of Lent and of “giving something up.” The morning show hosts on my local Christian station were asking listeners not so much what you gave up, but why. It is not really that important whether you give up candy or chocolate, but why.
So what am I giving up this year? This year I am giving up sweets for Lent. Now on to the more important question…why? First, because it is a sacrifice. Now it may not be a huge sacrifice, but it is taking something I enjoy, and giving it up is my own little sacrifice to our Lord.
But it goes further than that. In general we do not have dessert on a regular basis. We eat homemade healthy meals and I don’t really snack a lot during the day. So I started to think, when do I eat sweets? And I realized it is when I am upset, troubled, frustrated, lonely. Having a rough day at work? I will reach for a chocolate. On days when my husband works late and I am home by myself feeling bored and maybe a bit lonely, that’s when I might go get the ice cream. I go for those lovely sweet foods mostly when something is troubling me. I know that the chocolate won’t fix it. It may taste good and leave me in a better mood for a bit, but the real place I should be looking for comfort is in the Lord. When I am having a tough time, I should say some prayers or pull out my Bible before just reaching for the cookies. By giving up sweets for Lent, I am hoping to get into the habit of turning to God more often.
Speaking of habits, I believe that Lent is an excellent time to start life changing habits. Last year I gave up complaining. Now I cannot say that I have not complained in the past year. But even after Lent ended last year, I still continued to try my hardest to avoid complaining. I still make it a daily habit to look for something positive and refrain from complaining as much as I can. Of course at times I fail, but overall I truly believe I have become a more positive person in the past year. I hope to do the same this year. My husband and I eat pretty healthy and try to exercise on a regular basis. We are both in good health and in good shape, but we both could do a little better too. God gave us our bodies and we are called to take care of them. By giving up sweets, we will be forcing ourselves to live a healthier diet.
Tonight at Mass we will be given ashes as a reminder that we are not meant for this world alone. One day our bodies, our earthly possessions will return to ashes, to dust. It is a reminder to focus instead on the Lord, on prayer, on the things that matter not in this world but in the next. It is my hope and prayer that by giving up sweets as a small sacrifice, by turning to God instead of desserts when I feel upset, and by forming healthier eating habits to take care of the body God gave me, I will be able to go through this Lenten season becoming closer to the Lord and to the things that truly matter.