Lent: I give up

Every year, I have a horrible time coming up with something to do for Lent.

For the non-Catholics reading this weblog, Lent refers to the 40 days before Good Friday (the day Jesus died) which we use as a time of spiritual inventorying and deeper reflection. The church encourages us to take on some extra practice during this time as a means of drawing closer to God, typically in the areas of prayer, penitence, or charity.

The easiest of these, of course, is penitence, and that’s why you hear people talk about “giving up something for Lent” as if that’s their only option. But most people find that praying more or taking on a charitable work is more likely to draw them closer to God.

Being who I am, of course, I can never come up with Just The Right Thing to do for Lent. And then after that, I suffer from Lent Creep (where the Right Thing To Do begins expanding on me.)

A couple of years ago, utterly stuck, I asked my guardian angel, “So, what do you think I should do?”

I suddenly remembered what the priest says on Ash Wednesday when you get your ashes: “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.”

I thought, “I’m supposed to be doing that anyhow.”

Then I heard in my head, “Bible.”

And here I thought I’d be told to give up chocolate! No such luck. So instead, I read through three of the Gospels and a few of the epistles during Lent. The next year, I went further afield and did some non-Bible spiritual reading, and that’s what I did last year as well.

This year, I think it’s back to the Bible. I can get in 40 minutes of prayer every day, but for some reason it’s tougher to get the Bible reading done, probably because I need it to be quiet in order to concentrate on that, and, well… I have four kids.

Yesterday, though, I had a thought. If writing is my vocation, shouldn’t I somehow work on my vocation through Lent? Isn’t my vocation something that should draw me closer to God?

Therefore, I thought, it would be good and proper for me to make my Lenten devotion finishing up ♥My Book♥.

My Patient Husband said, “no way,” and I’m going to go along with that for a simple reason: because I intended to finish it by mid-April anyhow. Making that my Lenten practice would be like saying I was cooking for my family for Lent.

But in a way, it also makes sense, and I’m not entirely sure I’m not onto something. If God wants us to grow to our fullest potential, then it’s fully within the Lenten spirit to devote ourselves to doing it. Even if we find that thing enjoyable. Even if it was something we were going to do anything — as long as we do it single-heartedly.

Just a thought. I still haven’t unPaused literarily, although I’m going to push myself to do it soon. I’ve got the second half of the book mapped out in a document now. I just need to come up with the next scene, and I’ll be writing again.

Well, in and among all that praying and reading and the fish and stuff. Happy Lent! (And don’t forget your lenten penitential donuts!)


  1. Diana

    You know, it’s so funny you write about this. My Lenten sacrifice is similar. I’m producing a Catholic travel show for television, and I have to script, translate, shoot, edit, and deliver 10 shows to the network by September for it to air this fall.

    My Lenten sacrifice is forcing myself to stick to a schedule that will allow me to finish this endeavor. Previously, I was so haphazard about it. But since I also see this as my vocation, and I see myself growing in my faith as a result, I think the key–and therefore the actual sacrifice–lies in the self-discipline. I am forcing myself to stick to a schedule; one which will get me to my goal.

    But it did occur to me, how can this be a sacrifice if I enjoy it? Of course, procrastination is so easy, it is a challenge to do research instead of just vegetating in front of the TV thinking about all the things I have to do.

    I wish you luck. I’ll offer up my sacrifices for you!

    1. philangelus

      Thank you! Self-discipline is so TOUGH! That’s why it’s not called self-recreation, I guess. But yeah, that’s kind of what I was thinking of. If I could enforce a thousand words a day for God, I’d be done with the novel by Easter.

  2. cathrl

    Um…non-Catholics? I’m Anglican. We have Lent too 🙂
    My son told me yesterday he’s giving up chocolate biscuits for Lent. Since he’s a deeply literal child (wants scientific proof for everything) who recently told me he was an atheist, I was in slight shock. But I think we might give up chocolate biscuits together.

    1. philangelus

      I’m sorry for omitting the Anglicans. The Orthodox have Lent too, but for the most part whenever I’ve talked about Lent, I get that distressed “OMG you’re Catholic!” look from whomever I’m talking to. 🙂

      I’m just waiting for the day my ultra-literal child tells me the same thing. I figure I’ll reply, “But you can’t disprove God’s existence either” and watch his head explode.

  3. Cricket

    The first time I went to my husband’s church, it was Lent, and I hated the message I took home. “We are helpless worms, useless without God’s help.”

    If you don’t already see God’s hand helping, the net message is, “We are helpless worms.” I was brought up “God helps those who help themselves,” so being called a helpless worm was very discouraging.

    I’m still agnostic, but I’ll join in anyways.

    For this season I will: work for fifteen minutes a day on one or two of my self-improvement projects: Singing, shorthand, or storytelling. I will not let all the other projects creep into this time.

    Singing because I’m paying good money for good lessons, and wasting them if I don’t practice.

    Shorthand because I’ve wanted to reach my goal (equivalent to one school credit) for twenty years, and just found a local study buddy. We meet this afternoon. (I’m not actually here. I’m on Ravelry, checking patterns so I know how much yarn I need to buy before meeting her at the downtown library.)

    Storytelling because the local guild needs as many polished performances as they can get. Also, next year there will be at least two opportunities to, gasp, get paid, gasp, to tell. Storytelling can include paperwork like archives and permission to tell, as well as practising.

    I’m tempted to add “polish websites” to that list, but the list is long enough already.

    1. philangelus

      Self-improvement is definitely in the Lenten spirit. Did they actually call people helpless worms?

      I mean, there’s something to that, but God also gave us free will. God lets us wander around doing our own thing. I like to think that sometimes God wants to partner with us, with us having to do our share and then God blessing our work. But God can’t bless work that we haven’t done. Totally disempowering people so they feel helpless isn’t really in anyone’s best interests, is it?

  4. Cricket

    A great hint from Seinfield: Take a calendar, and put a mark on it each day you do it, then link the marks on consecutive days. Don’t break the chain! My calendar is printed, and I have three crayons handy.

  5. Ivy

    You know, I think this sounds like fine motivation to get a good chunk of writing done. I’m going to get 1,000 words a day minimum finished on my novel during the next 40 days. It would be cheating for me to call it a Lenten sacrifice, but it would be an interesting exercise, a good drive to do it, and it should result in me having at least 40,000 more words done. 🙂

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  7. philangelus

    Ivy, does Judaism have a time of spiritual preparation for Passover? You could do a thousand words a day as a pre-Passover work.

  8. Cricket

    After hearing that service and thinking about why it didn’t feel right to me, that’s the result I got. Remember, I had a single sample to work with at that time.

    Have you given your son Pascal’s Wager? (And, if so, did he say, “But we still don’t know which version of Him, so we need to work through all the requirements of every single faith, in which case we lose because we have not time left for anything else.)

  9. Ivy

    Opposite side of the calendar. We do spiritual prep for the High Holy Days. Writing a novel wouldn’t count for that, but it has a more narrow focus. Lent is for a broad range of spiritual growth, so a Christian might take the time to conquer any sin, like gluttony or excessive pride. The days leading to the high holidays are for repentance, to fellow man and to G-d.

  10. blueraindrop

    http://dontbreakthechain.com/ nice online tracker.

    *is rather impressed you have 12 comments listed here, and none yet jokingly mentioning taking up a new bad habit prior to time to then give up*

  11. philangelus

    That’s a regular joke between me and my Patient Husband, stolen from UHF.

    “I need to give up drinking.”
    “But you don’t drink.”
    “Well, I’ve been meaning to start.”

  12. Ivy

    Oh, I like that site, blueraindrop. 🙂 Good find.

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  14. knit_tgz

    Hm. Was I the only one who misread the title: “Lent: I give it up” (meaning: for Lent, I give up Lent)? Oh, well…

  15. Cricket

    A great calendar for “Don’t break the chain” — the entire year on one page, and room for four different marks per day. See the “YearPage” half way down: http://sciral.com/free/ (Shorthand, singing, story practice. Not sure what the fourth will be.)

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