“…but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger…” – 2 Corinthians 6:4-5
I am one of those strange people who love Lent and Holy Week.
Taking on something for Jesus? YES PLEASE!
Giving up something I love to grow closer to Christ? BRING IT!
Depressing readings and tunes from the 17th century written in a minor key? MY FAVORITE!
So, you’re giving up coffee for Lent, Jen? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA… NO. (It’s a safety thing—the safety of those who have to be around me.)
When it comes to how we do Lent in the West, we tend to be pansies compared to our siblings in the East. I keep Lent to Catholic standards as I hang out online with a lot of devout Catholics, and there are a lot of conversations about how “ohmigosh-today-is-Friday-I-have-to-plan-a-meatless-meal.” On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, there might be a conversation about what fasting rules look like, but none of it was impossible to do if one gave it a small amount of forethought.
My Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic friends, however, must give up meat, dairy, fish, oil, and wine in addition to abstaining from eating altogether on some days. I took on my friend Laura’s fast in the Coptic Orthodox Church a few years ago, and we had to modify it before I even started because not eating until noon was going to mess with my blood sugar badly. All I wanted for most of Lent was a freaking “I-really-hope-this-is-tuna” sandwich from Subway, which is usually a Lenten staple for me on Fridays, and to have something other than coconut milk in my coffee! I had to abandon the fast altogether at several points when I got bronchitis and needed some chicken soup.
Am I saying that we should all adopt an Orthodox style fast? Not at all. What I am saying is that we might want to find ways to draw closer to Jesus this Lent that may take us out of our comfort zones a bit. That might look like taking on extra prayer, extra reading, or giving up something you enjoy so that your thoughts about that item are directed toward God instead. You do you.
Gracious God, help us draw closer to you this Lent. Amen.