Lent -- Not Just For BellyButtons Anymore

I've been asked about my choosing to fast certain things for Lent, and though I do maintain that it is something that is fairly private between me and the Lord, I decided to go ahead and share, because I do think this season will prove to be a very drastic turning point for my relationship with the Father.

I've never observed Lent before.  Ever.

I actually never really knew what it was until just a few years ago when some of my nontraditional Baptist friends began discussing giving up strongholds for Lent, for up until that time "lint" was the stuff that stuck in my bellybutton and the stuff that I had to clean out of my dryer trap.  You see, growing up in a strict conservative Southern Baptist home, we didn't observe Lent or other so-called "legalistic" Christian holidays.  I don't think my parents necessarily frowned upon them, we just weren't taught about them, and they weren't observed.

Last Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, I was reading through some Twitter and Facebook statuses and kept seeing people refer to Lent.  And so I was intrigued.  I hopped online and began researching, trying to figure out if this was just a fad or if it was, in fact, something that could be proved to be legit.  I certainly did not want to play into the game of Everyone Else Is Doing It, but wanted to discern whether observing Lent was something that could bring me into a higher dependence upon the Lord.

After reading several good (and several bad) articles and commentaries on Lent, I decided to just fore-go all the theological mumbo-jumbo and go with my gut.  I have no idea if I'm observing Lent in all the "right" ways or not, but I decided to put my very simple mind's view on the matter and just go with it.

From what I have read, Lent is a period in which a person is called to give-up an item or more that has proved to be a stronghold for them. The idea being that if it is given up for the period of Lent, then a higher devotion to the Lord to fill the void will take place.  Thus leading, hopefully, to pattern changes and our dependency on the Lord increases.  (DISCLAIMER:  Again I will say...I'm no theologian and don't want to be.  I'll leave that to the folks that like that kind of thing.  I may have it all wrong, but I'm pretty confident that Christ will be happy with my effort even if I'm calling it "Lent" even if it's really not.  Basically, I don't really know what I'm talking about...but this is working for me and Jesus right now...so I'm going with it.)

A lot of my friends who observe Lent have given up Facebook, Twitter, and/or other types of social media.  Some have given up television, or at least certain television shows that they are locked into religiously.  Some have disconnected their internet for the 40 day period, and others have given up blogging.  I wasn't really feeling led down those certain ways, because although they would definitely have been my stronghold last year at this time, I've kind of grown past that a bit.  Don't get me wrong...I still LOVE the computer and all of its connectedness, but I can go for days without it and feel just fine.  So that didn't seem like the route to go.  I also recently gave up some "bad" television shows (ahem...Jersey Shore) that had me entirely way too hooked into their ridiculousness, but wasn't really feeling like giving tv up was the right path for me either.  Because at this point, I could take it or leave it.

So I examined.

And what I discovered is that I spend entirely way too much time thinking about how hungry I am.  I'm a nervous eater.  I'm an emotional eater.  I'm a restless eater.  I'm a bored eater.  And I'm a social eater.  I.Love.Food.  It can be a bowl of cereal before bed or a full-on gluttonous display of pasta devouring.  Doesn't matter.  I love to eat. 

So I decided that FOOD was an obvious stronghold for me.  I knew that if I channeled as much energy into my relationship with Christ as I did my refrigerator, then big things could change within me.

So, just like that, with no real pondering, I gave up food.  On Ash Wednesday.  In a matter of 10 minutes.  No planning.  No weaning myself off of food the week prior.  Just a cold turkey fast.  (Because I tend to be a little quick on the trigger!)

Then I remembered that Lent was for 40 days.  And I realized that although this was going to be a momentous occasion for my spiritual life, I was also still a human... And I didn't really want to die of starvation.

So I tweaked my fasting plan.

To fruits and vegetables only.  No sugar.  No coffee.  No pasta.  No bread.  No meat. 

For two reasons:  1...I had to eat something in 40 days.  And 2...I despise fruits and vegetables, so it seemed a perfect fit for my dependency issues.  Because the only way I was actually going to make it on a diet of broccoli and green apples was by the Grace of God.

(Please don't lecture me on the neccessity of certain nutrients, etc.  I've studied up on that, too, and have just decided that with my heart and mind in the right place, that God will see my very human body through the period.)

And so, here I am, 10 days in, and nothing has passed my lips that isn't a veggie or a fruit.  I'm eating my baked potatoes without butter, cheese, and sour cream, and I'm foregoing dumping cream cheese and cool-whip on my grapes. 

And it's hard.

But it is easier than I ever thought it would be.  Because I'm learning that I have the diligence to stick to something that seems totally far-fetched and crazy for me to manage, and because I have a whole lot of extra time on my hands to focus on the things that really matter. 

Another disclaimer...
This is totally just my deal.  I don't think anyone should do it, unless they feel called to do so.  It's not a diet plan or a time-management strategy.  It's hard and it makes you cranky and it makes people think that you have lost your ever-loving mind.  So please don't turn all vegan or disconnect your television because you read this post.  It really needs to be something between you and the Lord.  This isn't a self-help commercial by any means.  Because if I was trying to help MYSELF then I'd be in my car and at the nearest Olive Garden in the next 20 minutes. 

I have no doubt that after Easter, I will return to eating meat and pasta and cupcakes and bread and all my other favorite foods.  But I hope and desire that I will do so without the attachment and dependence on the food that I used to have.  Hopefully, food will just be food, and not my crutch. 

So...that's my Lent story. 

Do you have one?  I'd love to hear it!


Beam Me Up Scotty said...

Well, being raised in a non-religious family, then married into a Baptist family, I too never really understood Lent until this year. I suddenly felt compelled to research it and here I am, fasting. I felt like it was something The Lord was calling me to do this year.
I gave up chocolate. I am going to be honest here and it's may sound weird to some, but...chocolate is something I would turn to if I felt uneasy or worried, or needed a treat. I would "lean on it" in times of need. I know, weird, right? But, every time I feel like I need some chocolate, I am reminded that I really need is Him. It's been a good journey so far.
I applaud you for giving up something that would be such a big stronghold for many. Good luck. I am sure The Lord has something special planned for you through your fasting.
I did a 40-day fast, drinking only water, a couple years back. After 10 days I quit. I am glad that He included some fruit and vegs to sustain you the entire 40+ days! I'll say a prayer for ya!!


lisa@littlesliceoflife said...

Lent...it's what's (not) for dinner!

So proud of your perseverance!

Elizabeth said...

You rock, Amber! I know your love for food (me too, sister) and I know living on fruits and vegetables is hard.

God is doing a great thing in you and I'm excited for you! Thank you for sharing such a person, meaningful part of what's happening in your life. Love you!

Kalyndra said...

Hi, new reader here!

I love your take on Lent. Some years I observe, and some I don't. It just depends on where I am with the Lord (and dependence on certain things) that year.

This year I gave up Diet Pop (soda, coke whatever you call it). I was up to 2-3 20oz bottles a day, sometimes more. Bad, bad, bad especially since I had gotten to the point I thought I needed it. Bad.

We also do something a bit different when observing Lent. We aren't required to observe on Sundays. We view Sunday as the day of feasting, and (from what I understand) fasting was historically relaxed on Sunday.

Anywho, I'm enjoying reading your blog!


Beth E. said...

Hi, I hopped over from Kay's at Off the Beaten Path. Your post title caught my eye! ;-)

My timing couldn't have been better, 'cause I totally understand about your eating...I have my own love-hate relationship with food. Oh, and I was also raised in a Southern Baptist home!

This post blessed me and inspired me in a powerful way. I'll be reading it again and again over the next few days...God is moving, and I know that if He can do this for you, He will help me, too.

Blessings to you!

Beth E. said...

P.S. I have a hubby and two college-age sons. They're still rascals, even as they get older! ;-)

Jennifer said...

Sweet Friend,

So proud of you!! What a blessing and encouragement you are!!
I think I should have followed your example...seems like I need a "crowbar" to pry myself away from the Swiss rolls!! ;) Love ya!

Little Debbie

Christi @ Writing the Waves said...

I'm impressed that you are doing this.

Although our family has never officially given up something for Lent, Caylie has chosen to do it for years now.

This year she has given up texting.

I like what you said about it being a thing between you and God. I think that if He called you to do it, He will be your strength, ans help you grow through the experience.

Keep us posted on how this time impacts you! :)

mer@lifeat7000feet said...

Awesome, Amber. You inspire me!

I decided not to give anything up this year but to instead ADD something (something hard for me) and it's proving to be just as much of a refining process as the fasting was. Hard, but good.

And hey, someone found my blog by googling "Lint centerpiece". Made me snort. :)

Marc and Charity said...

I'm like you Amber, never have observed it before. Until we moved here I had never really heard of non-Catholics observing it. But it seems the thing to do here, esp. giving up choclate so you can binge on these giant chocolate easter eggs here. So anyway, I've been intrigued lately. I didn't give up anything, but have added something is a struggle for me.

Laura @ Our House Of Joyful Noise said...

What a hilarious post title! I had to come and read! :D

I really loved this post, and your sharing. We observe the Lenten season every year. Some years I do extra actions that strengthen my relationship with Christ, as a self-discipline approach. Other years, I make sacrifices, for the same reasons. It depends on what I know I am needing most that year.

It's really easy to make a Lenten plan for oneself, that will certainly take some effort, but really would not be a struggle that we know would be so super difficult, that it's hard to really even imagine ourselves committing to. So I commend and admire you, for taking the path that you have. In the end, I suspect you'll have found you have grown in many ways. Not only in your relationship with your Lord, but within yourself. Keep going, and may the Lord bless your Lenten journey. : )