Lent: Add Rather Than Subtract
I had never observed Lent until I found my current church, Lakeland. When they said we were having a service on Lent I had no idea what to expect, especially when the pastor started putting ashes on my forehead. Whoa.
The only thing I knew of Lent was witnessing one of my old aqua aerobics instructors giving up chocolate every year. I remember all she could talk about was chocolate. How much she missed it and how much she wanted it. I don’t know if she thought about God as much as she did chocolate, I hope so. (Sometimes I don’t know if I think about God as much as I do food, so there’s that.)
The first time I observed Lent I pondered what I should give up. There is so much for me to choose from; chocolate, sugar, flour, laziness, television, social media, caffeine, etc… I could keep going, but you get the idea. I remember giving up television. Holy Moly! It was hard. I know that might sound ridiculous to some, but to someone who has grown up with the television on every waking minute, it was difficult to have the silence. However, that silence brought me a “holy irritation”. Every time I wanted to turn on the tv I would get annoyed that I “couldn’t” and then I would remember why I was doing it.
I equated that “holy irritation” to my weight loss. I would want to eat cookies even when I wasn’t hungry and I would tell myself “no”. It irritated me. I wanted to drink soda, but I knew how addicted I was to it, so I told myself “no”. Irritation again. But that irritation led to 125 pounds shed and a new life for me.
I’m happy to say that giving up television that first Lenten season has stuck, sort of. I no longer have the television on during the day, we cut the cable and only watch it in the evening. Thanks Netflix and Antenna TV. It has been a peaceful subtraction for me, just as the pounds lost were a peaceful subtraction.
However, this season I decided to “add in”. I’m adding a time of waking early and practicing Lectio Divina. I guess if you’re a “glass half empty” person you could say I’m subtracting sleep, but I’m choosing to think of what I’m getting instead of losing. I’m getting to spend quiet time with God; listening, contemplating and noticing.
The idea of adding rather than subtracting is appealing to me, I guess because I relate it to dieting. Adding in healthy foods instead of subtracting all of the “bad” foods sounds more doable. I don’t know if you are like me, but when I diet I want to eat like crazy even though I’m not hungry.
I think back to my aqua instructor and as soon as Lent was over she was downing chocolate like crazy. Again, that’s all she talked about. But what if she had added in eating God’s food, eating fruits and vegetables every day? (I talk about that in my book, Small Bites, Big Results: A Common Sense Guide to Weight Loss). That probably would have helped her naturally eliminate her crazy chocolate cravings and she could have pondered the glory of our food that we have been given. When was the last time you looked at beans? They are amazingly beautiful! He even cares enough to make beans look appealing.
I love the article on Patheos.com that Brian D McLaren wrote. Here’s a snippet:
With varying degrees of cynicism, we questioners find ourselves kicking the tires of Lent still today. Why is God so anti-chocolate, for example? Is food only for nourishment and corporate profit, and not for enjoyment? (Similarly, is sex only for procreation and creating campaign issues?) Why aren’t more denominations recommending a carbon fast for Lent? Is God OK with us consuming a meat-based diet for 325 days a year, even though it’s wreaking havoc on the environment, as long as we give up pizza or desserts for 40?
It makes me think. I suppose even when you add there is a natural subtraction and vice versa. I subtracted tv, but it naturally added peace. I subtracted soda, it naturally added a healthy weight loss. I’m adding a contemplative practice and it will naturally subtract something. Let’s hope it’s not too painful, but there’s always that “holy irritation”.
Do you observe Lent? If so, how are you observing it this year? Adding or subtracting?