It’s that time of year again. The six weeks before Good Friday. It’s a season of penance. Yep. Lent.
I personally find it helpful to engage in the practice of either giving up something special or doing something extra for Lent. This focuses me on Good Friday and Jesus’s sacrifice and what it means to be forgiven. I like to keep it private and personal, but I also like whatever I do to be meaningful.
The most powerful Lent I ever had was one where I gave up listening to music.
My traditional way of picking a Lenten devotion is to flail around for a couple of weeks with no idea what I’m going to pick. Then, Ash Wednesday comes and Lent starts, and I still have no clue. Thursday comes. Then by Friday, I get hit upside the head by whatever it is I should be doing, and I do it.
Four years ago, Kiddo#3 was brand-new at the start of Lent, and I had no idea what to do. I didn’t think I could set aside any extra time for extra prayer or reading, and nothing else made sense. I had already made the joke several times that I’d given up sleep for Lent due to the newborn, who’d begun having random fussy spells that lasted late into the night. I was exhausted and befuddled, and I had no idea what to do.
In the grocery store that day, I was about to buy bagels for breakfast when I got a very strong impulse: God wanted me to give up bagels for Lent.
It was one of those moments where I doubted I’d heard God. I mean, that’s pretty lame. Giving up bagels? But then I thought, look, if God wants it, God gets it. And I didn’t buy my bagels.
After four days, I was even more exhausted than ever. I couldn’t think. Kiddo#3 had kept me up late every night because he was screaming with pain and an upset tummy.
And then I made the connection: when I gave up bagels, I started having cereal for breakfast every day
Cereal with milk.
Kiddo#3 was reacting to the milk.
I cut milk out of my diet, and he got better at once.
It was one of those ‘holy cow’ moments. If I hadn’t given up bagels, I would never have connected his fussy nights to my cereal-breakfasts. It was only when it happened every day that I put it all together (“The kid hasn’t slept since Ash Wednesday! Did he give up sleeping for Lent?”).
At that point, I could have felt justified in resuming bagel-eating, but I didn’t. And unfortunately, due to Lent Creep, which I’ll define in tomorrow’s entry, I didn’t feel comfortable shifting to frozen waffles or toast for breakfast, because that was a lot like eating a bagel. Cereal was out. And so, for six weeks, I faced every morning for breakfast… a bowl of oatmeal.
I hate oatmeal.
Lent was quite penitential in 2004.