40 Days of Deprivation

I went through a phase in high school where I was Presbyterian.  Although it was more of a social activity — their youth group went to Schlitterbahn! — I still found myself being both confirmed (after a long series of confirmation classes which were at least informative if not particularly spiritual) and baptized in front of the entire congregation one Sunday.

After this, I participated in Lent each year.  And although I didn’t entirely understand why, I solemnly agreed to give up such terrific vices as chocolate or thinking evil thoughts against the trashy girls who left mean notes in my locker.  Of course, in college I was baptized once again — this time in an old-school Church of Christ — since my previous baptism wasn’t considered legitimate.  It seems that no one has seen fit to develop a Euro of Christian rites and rituals, which would be accepted as valid currency from denomination to denomination.

lentThese days, I’m more spiritual — if anything — than I was in high school yet don’t attend church any kind of regular basis.  And I’m not Presbyterian anymore (that second baptism apparently removed all traces of any earlier membership in the church), so I don’t take part in Lent anymore.  That said, I understand and appreciate that other people do.  I’m always fascinated with the intersection of religion and food (hence the recent Joel Osteen vs. bacon article), and Lent is an interesting time of year to ponder what few food-related mandates modern Christian churches still recognize.

If you think about it, modern-day Christians don’t have too many issues around food.  You eat what you want.  There are no dietary restrictions.  Few people fast, and most of those only do so during periods such as the 40 days of Lent.  Compare that to Jewish or Muslim or Hindu faiths, where strict dietary laws mean that what you put into your mouth is just as important as what you harbor in your heart, where feasts such as Eid al-Fitr serve as celebrations of faith and community, and where fasts such as Yom Kippur bring you closer to God through atonement and deprivation.

Lent is one of the few times that Christians look at food through a spiritual lens.  Catholics take the season a bit more seriously than their Protestant cousins, fully abstaining from eating meat on Fridays during the 40 days.  Most people, however, simply decide upon a food or beverage that they’ll give up during the season and go without alcohol or sweets for a little over a month.  These are popular items to give up, hence the popularity of the hedonistic revelry of Mardi Gras or Carneval immediately preceding Lent.

Lent is intended to remind Christians of the 40 days that Jesus Christ spent in the desert wilderness, resisting the temptations that Satan put before him, and to prepare them for the coming festival of Easter and celebration of Christ’s resurrection.  Giving up certain foods or vices or activities is a modern means of resisting temptation, all the while awaiting the glories that lay ahead — both in the form of spiritual glory and in the glory of finally being able to eat chocolate cake or drink a beer again.

Do you celebrate Lent?  If so, what are you giving up this year?  And for those of you that are giving up food or beverage, did you have a final indulgence in your chosen item last night?  Don’t lie…I know at least some of you did.  Spill it below.

15 thoughts on “40 Days of Deprivation”

  1. I’m giving up listening to Joel O$teen. And, yes, I did have one ‘last’ indlugence yesterday when I watched the video you linked to on HP about the whole ‘pork and shellfish’ thing.

  2. Cookies and all candy. I caught myself buying candy bars twice in 3 weeks. With Paulie’s right across the street, it’s too easy give in to my puerile desires.

  3. Eastern Orthodox Christians give up eggs, cheese, olive oil, and meat and fish for 40-50 days. Meat abstinence was supposed to begin this past weekend. Cheese and egg abstinence begins this Monday on Clean Monday.

    In my younger days, I did the meat and fish abstinence for the 40 days. These days, I need to have a little meat here and there. Can’t seem to handle the anemia unless I do.

    My mom always frowned when I added things to the abstinence list. It’s not supposed to be about what we want to give up, she’d insist.

    I know, I know. Why bother. Lent prioritizes things for me. My love of food takes a back seat for a month or so. And my cholesterol levels, which are already good, plummet. Food is removed from its pedestal, and I appreciate certain foods that much more when I get around to eating them again.

    (darn, I never got around to trying a burger from Hubcap!)

  4. I knew someone who decided she would be giving up french fries for lent. I had to hold my tongue on several occasions while I watched her eat tater tots, curly fries, waffle fries…Apparently all other fried forms of potatoe were OK, just not your run-of-the-mill fries.

  5. Giving up booze and potato chips. Potato chips because I love them in all their kettle-crunch, greasy salty wonderfulness. Booze because it’s a good thing from time to time to confirm that you can indeed give it up!

  6. Buying wine. I buy way too much in the store (compulsive), have more than I could drink in a year in the house. Also, I eat out a lot and buy wine with my meals, which considering the home stock is indulgent and wasteful. So no wine buying for lent. I can drink my own (home/BYOB) but that’s it.

  7. Victoria – on the booze, I did exactly that when we moved to Kuwait, no booze allowed. Lots of people homebrew/smuggle. I figured if I got that desperate, I needed the break anyway!

  8. See, that’s the beauty of being Church of Christ – no lent!!!! No giving up of anything!!! Pork? Bring it on! Oreos? Load up the grocery cart! Ice cream, cigarettes (well, maybe not), wine (oh, never mind).

  9. I loved your as usual wonderful words. Giving up anything is…to use a overused word…a truly awesome feat. It takes more will power than I have. So how about giving up giving up? Probably equally impossible. But though like you I am unchurched yet spiritual…whatever that means…and toying with Lenten ideas is as old a habit as eating. Pretty much hard to give that up too. So this year I let an idea percolate to the surface which is to try embracing everything, accepting everything….(and maybe stop complaining, hmmm….perhaps also impossible!)

  10. I am a back sliding Missouri Synod Lutheran, meaning I should be going to church but just haven’t been doing it. Yeah, I’m bad. During Lent we are encouraged to make sacrifices, by giving up something, but we don’t usually. We do have weekly Lenten services, on Wed. nights, but there are no dietary restrictions, like only fish on Fri., etc. I did some grocery shopping last Fri. and had my cart loaded with beef, pork and bacon, and while in the checkout heard this girl tell her mom that it was going to be hard to remember not to eat meat on Fridays. Geez, made me feel like a heathen! Glad I’m not in that denomination.

  11. @ daddy-o….my point exactly. Hypothetically, at least 😉 Unless, of course, you include evils the likes of can-o-soup based casseroles, jello salads and homemade cakes, cookies and pies. Now, *those* are evils worth hanging on to!!

  12. My wife remembers participating in Lent to an extent while she attended a Lutheran grade school. She and her family were not Lutheran, so she never really did it. She felt no compulsion to join in. I do agree though that the original idea behind it is a good one. It should just be about can I stop doing something for 40 days? It shouldn’t even necessarily be about, doing something like Christ (remember he went without FOOD and WATER for 40 days – not just hummus). This season should be one that we see through out the year. Whenever we abstain from anything for God, it should be so that we can spend that time reading His word, being in prayer/communication with the Lord. Whether it is a weekly abstaining from a meal, then spend that 30-45 min in prayer. If you are abstaining from alchohol for lent, then whenever you feel the desire for a drink stop and pray for someone you love and better yet someone you don’t like (boy can that be a sacrifice). Lent and fasting are not just about sacrificing something you like and love and want more of. These two things were created so that you could spend more time with your Heavenly Father, your Creator, your Forgiving Judge and your Savior.

    Philip Kledzik
    “An Issue of the Heart”

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