We’re in the midst of Lent right now—the Christian time of fasting for 40 days and 40 nights to represent Christ’s time in the desert. To be perfectly frank, I had not even realized Lent had started until I looked it up today. The Catholic remnants of my past were quick to howl with anguish at this before once again slipping under the bed.
It is common for most Catholics to give something up during Lent. Something that means something. A sacrifice. It’s not supposed to be easy, but some go above and beyond, abstaining from multiple treats or activities.
I remember those days well. A staunch on-the-cusp-of-converting schoolboy with a heavily muddied uniform complimented by a pair of dress shoes soundly beaten by the rigors of the soccer pitch. There was never any doubt what my mother wanted me to give up for Lent.
I’m fairly certain that the majority of the time, my sacrifice for Lent was chocolate. Being a dessertatarian of the highest degree, for me, this was no small feat. It was most difficult in grade four—the year of my introduction into this new tradition—and got easier as the terms passed. Though trying to fill my sweet tooth’s dark cavity with potato chips proved to be a fruitless endeavour indeed.
Lent became one of my major trials each year. I dreaded it to an extent, but committed nonetheless. If Christ could fast for such a length of time, who was I to complain about the lack of a single luxury? If he could die for our sins, couldn’t I manage to also avoid meat on Fridays? It was all about perspective and keeping one’s purpose close to heart.
And now? I’m a happy agnostic who can’t even remember when formerly important religious observances come into season. That’s not to say my past, or in the greater scheme of things, Lent, is irrelevant.
How often do we give something up in our daily lives? How often do we truly hold ourselves back from instant gratification? In a world where a pizza can be ordered at the touch of a button and limitless programming is at our fingertips, it’s easy to get what we want when we want. And while there’s inherently nothing wrong with that, there isn’t anything particularly right about it either.
Exercise that willpower. Hold off on grabbing that tub of ice cream on the way home from work. Practice some moderation, even cutting treats and such out completely from time to time. Not only will you find your indulgences far more rewarding when they do come to pass, but you’ll be happier in general. Training yourself to be patient allows some progress from the “I want it now” attitude—it will get easier. Be like the Christians and have purpose.