March 7, 2011

Lenten Diet?

Has Lent has become a type of diet? You give up something that’s bad for you for 40 days and then switch from famine to feast on Easter Sunday (and the Sundays in between if you cheat). You might even lose a few pounds or become a little less addicted to caffeine or Facebook in the process.
One year I gave up what seemed a great sacrifice, chocolate. Even being the chocoholic I am, self-discipline and yogurt-covered pretzels carried me through with little need to look beyond myself. I even thought I was becoming a better, less food-obsessed person because I began to crave the wondrous cocoa less. Retrospectively, I realize I missed the whole point of a fast.

I now see I have to be careful to monitor my intentions. Am I doing this just to see if I can make it through or to wean myself off a bad habit? Or is this a God-honoring sacrifice?

One thing I did have on target in my chocolate fast was that the most significant thing for me to sacrifice is food. TV, facebook, caffeine, music, whatever I can live without just fine (and it’s hard to give up the internet or reading when you have a job), but lunch, dinner, snack time, dessert, baking, cooking, food shopping, it’s all what I most look forward to everyday. And so when I go 24 hours (as long as I’ve ventured thus far) without eating, as I did once a week last Lent, every hunger pain reminds me that I am incessantly dependant on something, someone, beyond myself. It’s not comfortable, there are no yogurt-covered pretzels to substitute, and I certainly can’t do it on my own.

Another good Lenten discipline can be to take something on instead of giving it up. This year I’m thinking about setting aside extra time for prayer or daily writing notes to encourage people in my life. The Church Health Center in Memphis suggests taking on healthy eating and is blogging different healthy recipes.

Ash Wednesday, the official start of the Lenten season, is in two days. What are you considering taking on or giving up?

UPDATE: I just found a campaign called Wine to Water that encourages people to donate to water projects in Zimbabwe the money they would have spent on whatever they give up for Lent. Another great idea! This give site is in the UK, but you could easily easily calcuate the amount you are not spending and give it to whatever nonprofits you like to support. 


  1. This post really made me think about it. While Lent wasn't observed/practiced in our household growing up, I do remember friends who would give up chocolate or soda and then complain for entire 40 days and 40 nights. I think it's really great that you are focusing your energies on what Lent is about, rather than what is isn't about (the thing you're giving up). Even though Lent might mean something different to me, I have decided to take on a vegan diet for one day every week to become more attune to what my body needs and how to provide it in a natural and whole way.

  2. I appreciate this post. We have been talking a lot about the diet fad and Facebook-abandonment fad that Lent has become, and we've been wondering how we can encourage friends who are participating in Lent to do it in a way that honors God, not ourselves or our forgotten New Years' resolutions. We don't participate in Lent, but we went to our church's Ash Wednesday service, and our pastor gave a good summary of the history of Lent - that it's not a biblical practice, but it was started by early Christians who wanted to prepare their hearts for the Easter celebration. Ultimately, Lent is not a time to focus on bettering ourselves, but it's a time to focus on our King.


Pretty please share your thoughts!