When I was 19, it was elevators.
Around 26 or so, it was make-up.
This year it’s setting further boundaries around digital media, primarily that on my phone and therefore at my fingertips.
You’d think I’d be cured of it by now – I mean, I’ve been writing about it just about every other day since declaring 2013 the year of (the) BE.
I’m talking about Lent, of course. I didn’t grow up a religious tradition that participated in Lent, and only saw it from an outsider’s perspective as my Catholic friends gave up chocolate for 40 days, sometimes coming to school with a smudge of ashy charcoal on their foreheads. It wasn’t until I went to a historically Lutheran school that the actually idea of Lent began to take root in my life.
Granted, it started out as more of a weight-loss scheme than as a way to commemorate the period between Ash Wednesday and Easter. Give up sweets for Lent? Fine, if I have to… (while high-fiving myself internally: I’ll lose my freshman 15 – yes!). But really, even that didn’t hold any bearings – or help me lose the weight gained fall semester, for that matter – as sweets weren’t exactly the biggest stronghold in my life. Temptation surely would have come my way had a bowl of chips with accompanying guacamole been placed in front of me, but I digress.
So my sophomore year of college, I was determined to actually give up something really, really meaningful, and living on the 4th floor of my college dorm, elevators became the declared answer.
I trudged up and down the four flights of stairs, back pack heavy with books and my spiral binder – these were the days before laptops entered collegiate classrooms, and I found myself grateful for shorthand note-taking skills. Thank you, Mr. Pauley and AP Euro.
But still, I don’t know if I really got the meaning of Lent, or if I was just participating in said elevator fast because I thought I was supposed to, because everyone else was doing it.
Fast-forward a few years, and I had just moved back to California from a two-year stint in Washington state; living on the Peninsula certainly had its perks, but I was far from the hippie-esque culture of my Santa Cruz days. Although sporting our Nor-cal pride with its lack of plastic surgery and love of big dogs alike, we snuffed our LA counterparts, quickly pointing out that we were so much more organic and natural up here, we were one with the earth.
I was so organic that I had a dependence on painting my face every morning. I fixed my confidence and therefore my beauty on my daily regime of mascara and lip gloss and whatever other free Sephora sample found its way to my make-up bag.
So I gave up make-up for 40 days – and never felt so naked.
Or so ugly.
But I made it through the Lenten season, one hopes with a renewed sense of inner beauty, independent of what the world says makes me more – or less – beautiful. [Of course, this could have just been cured by pregnancy and staying home with a little one, as these days I’m lucky to get a daily shower, let alone a touch of mascara on my eyeballs.]
Yet even as I reflect on these Lenten pursuits, and think about my own goals towards digital media this year – turning off altogether on Sundays, shutting the laptop and iPad shut at 9 pm (great idea, Micha-friend), keeping the phone on “silent” throughout the day, and refraining from mindless browsing – I have to ask myself: where’s Jesus in this Lent of mine?
The point of Lent is to sacrifice, as Jesus sacrificed for us.
To give something up for him, as He gave something up for us.
And in the midst of elevators and make-up and even digital media alike, if I’m not finding Him at the end of the day, has Lent lost its purpose and just become another legalistic Christian activity, one that points to my own strengths and abilities to refrain instead of leading me to Christ?
Or – if, theologically speaking – the tables are turned, does God still find us (and our according sacrifices) good and pleasing, therefore leading us closer to Him?
I suppose the latter is what I hope for: I hope that Christ might find me as I do my part to sacrifice for him …because, truth be told, I’m not very good at thinking about ol’ Jesus when I slam the laptop shut at 9.01 pm.
What about you? Do you practice Lent? Where do you find yourself in the midst of this conversation?0