Tuesday, March 23, 2010

How I Decided What to Give Up for Lent

I wasn't sure I was going to blog about this, but as with most of the subjects I write about, I mention it just in case it's helpful to someone else.

On the day before Ash Wednesday, I still hadn't fully settled on what I wanted to/needed to/should do for penance. A few ideas were bouncing around my head.  Coffee occurred to me a few times, but each time I immediately dismissed it as an insane thought. "No," I told myself, "something more meaningful."

Besides -- I didn't want to give coffee up. Please.

I was bouncing around on the internet, too. Reading blogs. And I saw that this sweet reader had taken my ramblings to heart and planned to give up buying any new books through Lent. She had read my "Meaningful Lent" post which said, "If it's a struggle to give it up, we're inordinately attached to it."

And then, I practically heard the word, before I even had time to cross examine myself about my own inordinate attachments:

"Coffee." It was so loud.

The Lord can just be so annoying sometimes. Like when He tells me what I really need to do.

I wanted to swat the word and the thought away, like a fly, like the pesky thing it was. But I knew it was true. I am inordinately attached, and I have never given coffee up for Lent. There was no more dodging it.

So, coffee topped the list of material penances. 

Ash Wednesday went beautifully. Atticus had a lovely cup of tea ready for me first thing in the morning. This won't be so hard, I thought (rather pathetically.) But, ummm, yeah. It got harder. But I've hung in there, thanks to God, and I'm so glad I did.

And why am I talking about it now?

Because it's not too late to try to give up something that you might have considered and rejected as a penance. If you're feeling that you  fudged a little, compromised, chose something easy rather than something that would make you rely on Him instead of "it" (whatever "it" is for you), then there's still time to give that penance a trial run if you want to. We're in Passiontide, and Easter is still almost two weeks away.  That's long enough to feel it, and short enough to survive.  And there's still a Solemnity coming on Thursday, and one more Sunday -- havens (and I do duck in to the havens.)

Giving up coffee has been beneficial for me in so many ways.  I'd love to tell you that I'll be giving it up permanently, that I've seen major health improvements, have lost weight, now adore tea and I just won the lottery.

None of that is true.

I know I'll go back to coffee. But, thanks be to God for several things: for His help, that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Phil. 4:13), and for the Body of Christ as experienced through blogs and readers and the blogs of readers. I know that He can conquer addictions large and small, and on Easter Sunday, I'll have some coffee because I want to, not because I have to.


Amber said...

I gave up cookies for Lent, and it has made me feel like a little kid. But really, I love a cookie after lunch. I feel like I deserve a cookie after lunch. I feel a little grumpy if I don't get a cookie after lunch. So, yeah, giving up cookies was a good thing. I isn't like I eat many of them, but it was an issue. And my fingers still twitch a bit for that cookie after lunch. But it has been a very good reminder that I am not just a being that consumes and consumes and does nothing else.

The thing I took on has been a real blessing. God strongly wanted me to take up the Rosary and start praying it every day. I've fought this for awhile, but finally took it on as a Lenten discipline. And wow, it has been amazing. What a beautiful gift. But then again, I suppose you know that, having written a book on the Rosary and all. :-)

Karen E. said...

Amber, I'm so glad you've found the Rosary to be a blessing! And on the cookies, yes, isn't that so true? We can tell ourselves all we like that "I can give that thing up if I *want* to ...." but then to actually do it .... those "little things" are always harder than I think they'll be.

Sue said...

It seems you meant to send this as an email to me, but accidentally posted it on your blog ;o). I was just thinking yesterday that I wish I could start Lent over, and feeling like a failure. I really needed to read this today. Thank you so much!

TNP said...

Coffee? Are for you real? Anything but that. Anything. I go to bed each night looking forward to that first delicious sip in the morning, with the aroma of Chock Full O'Nuts surrounding my morning stupor.

But you're right. I had a sense that my own three Lenten offerings were pittance compared to the one thing that would be a real sacrifice. I just didn't want to face it.

Karen E. said...

Sue, thank *you*! Every day can be a new Lenten beginning. :)

TNS, you said: "I go to bed each night looking forward to that first delicious sip in the morning" -- Yup. I know that feeling extraordinarily well. :) It was just my year to face it.

Karen E. said...

Oops, I meant TNP ....

Impatient Griselda said...

Thank you for this bit of encouragement. I love it. I'm going to recommit to my Lenten reading, which has fallen by the wayside in the wake of a baby's shifting sleep schedule. I'll find time for it.