Thursday, March 3, 2016

Why Lent?

Yesterday I headed over to the coffee shop where our local running club holds its Wednesday morning runs. With my wounded left foot in tow, I knew I would not be able to run, but I was determined not to miss out on the camaraderie of the coffee klatsch that typically follows. After four months of not being able to participate due to my temporary employment, I felt I had already missed enough.

It was great to be able to catch up with my friends whom I have only seen sporadically since last year. And, now that I am off of Facebook, I really felt that in talking with my friends, for once, I really had news to share. It felt nice to honestly be able to fill my friends in on what was happening in my life and to hear about what was going on in theirs.

Of course, after rehashing my foot story for the third or fourth time (as people filtered in, got their coffee, and then finally sat down and invariably asked why I hadn't run), I realized that the joy in Facebook would have been simply broadcasting my foot news far and wide - and all in one fell swoop. It's not so much that I minded telling everyone over and over again. (In fact, it gave me an inflated sense of self-importance, if I am honest.) But I did feel sorry for the first couple of people I had told the story to, as they got to hear it again - over and over. Welcome to a non-Facebook world, I guess!

So, it's been three weeks since I gave up Facebook for Lent. Hard to believe. The time has both flown by and dragged by in equal measure. Conversation with one of my friends yesterday, and a further e-mail exchange on the matter, got me thinking about this entire Lenten challenge for myself. Why did I do it?

Lent as part of a religious season is not something I observe. I am not Catholic, but a rather lax (if not lapsed) Lutheran. However, If I am going to give something up, I like the idea of doing so at Lent for a number of reasons: it is long enough to be uncomfortable but yet it has an end date. And, it is understood by most people. So when I say I am giving up XYZ for Lent, they get it. I can forego any lengthy explanations as to the whys and what fors.

The texts I have read (read: Internet articles) describe Lent as a time of fasting. The idea of giving up something more - beyond the traditional fasting - is a relatively newer concept. As to why I personally do it, I like this quote from Catholic Online's FAQs about Lent page at
Lent is about conversion, turning our lives more completely over to Christ and his way of life. That always involves giving up sin in some form. The goal is not just to abstain from sin for the duration of Lent but to root sin out of our lives forever. Conversion means leaving behind an old way of living and acting in order to embrace new life in Christ. For catechumens, Lent is a period intended to bring their initial conversion to completion.
While I may not whole-heartedly embrace the religious overtones of this, I do believe this is a good, well-defined time to make a change.

The last time I was moved to give up something for Lent was several years ago, and the "vice" was chocolate. I had gotten into the habit of eating the candy every day, and I was thinking it was becoming more of an addiction than an indulgence. I was looking to make a change. 

When I give something up for Lent (or if I were to add a good behaviour instead!), I am not doing so for these few weeks only to go back to my old habits or behaviors once Easter rolls around. Rather, as is stated in the quote above, I am looking for a more permanent conversion to come out of this.

I am denying myself this candy or that behavior in the hopes of coming back to it a new person. I hope to bring that item, denied to me for so many weeks, back into my life with a new outlook. In this particular instance, I want to get back to Facebook with a healthier and more balanced approach to my social media usage.

This did work for chocolate, by the way. The habit I had had of indulging in chocolate daily was broken and remains broken to this day. I eat it now and again, but it is not something I crave anymore. I am hoping that will happen with Facebook too. It was important to remind myself that there are other ways to communicate with friends and family and there are other ways to squander away my free time. In this case, I needed to relearn OLD habits.

So, I guess, if Lent is to be a time of reflection, then it is working for me. I certainly have spent a lot of time thinking about how I interact with people and what I value in others' interactions with me, and I think I will carry that new found (re-found?) knowledge going forward.

Do you give up anything for Lent? Take on new habits? Try new things? What do you think about this challenge? Let me know!

In the meantime, happy running!

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