Yesterday, Ash Wednesday, was the first day in the season of Lent. This means different things for a lot of people. When I was a kid, it meant fish or cheese pizza at school on Fridays because the Catholics don’t eat meat on Fridays. When I got older, it meant giving up something I love as a way to spend more time in prayer and remind myself of Jesus’ suffering and sacrifice.
Today, it is still a time where I should be spending more time in prayer, and thinking of Jesus’ suffering and sacrifice. I’m learning that it doesn’t have to be by giving something up so that I’m miserable for 40 days. One year, I gave up coffee. Big. Mistake. One year, my dad and I gave up meat, just to see if we could do it for 40 days. It was actually a lot of fun: we ate stuffed peppers (stuffed with rice and beans and cheese and other good stuff). We also ate a lot of tofurkey, which is really gross. It was fun to try a bunch of different recipes and find ways to replace meat with vegetables. We didn’t give up seafood because we like those Catholic Fish Frys way too much.
But when I gave up things I really loved, coffee and ice cream, I found that instead of spending my time in prayer, I was spending my time complaining and being upset about not having the things I love, which defeats the purpose of sacrificing things in Lent.
This season, I decided to add something to my prayer/devotional life. I’m going to pick one Psalm each week and memorize it. Memorizing Scripture is a great practice, and you can never know too much Scripture. I, unfortunately, do not know enough Scripture. I want to use these next 40 days to learn more. That way, I can pray these Psalms several times throughout the day: in the car, at work, before sleeping, waking up, in the shower, etc.
Giving up something for Lent is a great practice, as long as it’s done well. Giving something up for the sake of giving something up isn’t the goal. It’s giving something up to replace that thing with prayer, devotion, and Scripture that matters. If you find that your time is spend on complaints or grumpiness, maybe add something, instead of taking something away so that you’re focusing on the Word.
Image taken from Catholic Diocese of Lansing. “Lent 2018.”