A year ago I wrote about my search for a genuine spiritual experience instead of the superficial, hypocritical, half-hearted religiosity so common in 21st Century America. This wasn’t…isn’t…meant as a criticism of any particular group or individual, for I have been known to be as guilty as anyone of being a “7th Day Christian”, meaning one who only plays at being a Christian for a couple of hours each Sunday morning. Am I doing better?? I think so, but I am always striving to do more…..to be more. I certainly don’t lack in good influences, including my great friend The Owl, my buddy Don (whose blog, Citizen Don, is linked on this page), and several folks with whom I attend church. As part of this progress last year I decided to take Lent seriously, and the results were pretty good.
To review…for the heathens among you and those in Mingo County…Lent is the traditional time of preparation beginning on Ash Wednesday and culminating in Holy Week, which of course is the remembrance of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. Typically Lent lasts 40 days, similar to the forty days Jesus spent in the desert resisting the temptations of Satan (Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13), the forty days & nights Moses spent on Mount Sinai receiving The Ten Commandments from God (Exodus 19:1-25), the forty years the Jewish nation spent wandering in the desert, and the forty days & nights rains fell upon the Earth while Noah and his animals were holed up in The Ark (Genesis Chapters 6-9). 40 is a very important number in The Bible, and is used by God to represent a period of testing or judgment.
Traditionally Christians sacrifice, or give up, something during Lent. I used to make light of this tradition, cracking jokes about giving up various frivolities or things that I didn’t really utilize anyway, but Lent is about conversion, turning our lives more completely over to Christ and cleansing our life of sin. Our goal should not be just to refrain from something meaningless during Lent but to take a major step toward ridding our lives of sin forever. Conversion means leaving behind our old ways and embracing new life in Christ. Galatians 2:20 says “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me”. That verse has haunted me for years not just because I wonder how many people’s old lives have truly been crucified so that Christ now lives in them, but more pointedly I ask myself if I have truly become that new creation God wants me to be. Maybe the fact that I even ask myself the question speaks volumes about how short I fall on a daily basis. At any rate, I decided in 2010 to take my Lenten sacrifice more seriously, and I am doing the same this year.
Last year I decided to give up Facebook during Lent. On the surface that may seem like a meaningless, frivolous sacrifice, but in reality it was very difficult. Facebook is how I stay in touch with all sorts of friends & family, and to be honest I’d much rather spend a rainy day reading a book and mindlessly perusing Facebook than watching almost anything on television. I missed staying in touch with folks during that forty day period, and it truly was very hard, but I did it and was very happy. I read more, prayed and studied The Word much more, and even got some tidying up done around The Bachelor Palace. However, I will not be giving up Facebook again. Been there, done that afterall. It’s time for a new challenge.
After some brief contemplation regarding the 2011 Lenten Sacrifice, the answer became clear fairly quickly. I am 38 years old and if I’m being perfectly frank, probably not nearly as healthy as I should be. Genetics are against me, as obesity and diabetes are present on both sides of my family. I am a paraplegic due to a birth defect called spina bifida, which means I use a wheelchair and don’t get a lot of exercise. Environmental forces don’t help either, since I live in one of the nation’s most economically challenged states & don’t exactly have a large bank account myself, and studies linking poor eating habits to lower incomes are easily found. However, putting all those factors aside, I am the one who goes through a drive thru or has greasy, carb-o-licious food delivered to my home atleast 3 or 4 times per week. I am the one who invades the snack cabinet at work every night and eats 2 or three candy bars. I am the one who lost thirty pounds just 5 short years ago (albeit while locked up in a “skilled” nursing facility) and gained it all back. So legitimate reasons/excuses be damned, I am the one who needs to take the initiative to regain the proper perspective on my health and well being.
A confluence of events has lead to this moment, and I can see God’s hand at work. First, as mentioned, I lost 30 pounds in 2006. The odd thing is, I was literally laying in bed for those 6 months. Was the food at The Home atrocious?? Absolutely. I wouldn’t feed that crap to my worst enemy. But my Dad and my crazy perverted Cousin Robert both visited daily and brought me food, whether it was leftover homemade lasagna,
fried chicken from the grocery store deli, or a cheeseburger from Wendy’s. So I didn’t starve, but still I lost the weight. And despite everything I’d been through emotionally and physically I felt about as healthy as I’d been in years…and I liked it. Secondly, in January of this year, within a couple weeks of each other, both of my best buddies…Greg & The Owl…both landed in the hospital with previously undiagnosed diabetes. They are both alive only by the unfathomable grace of God, and I am so very thankful. But for two people whom I consider like brothers to become that ill…with the same disease, both in the general age range as me, and with similar body types…well, it was eye opening. And if I am truly being honest with myself both of them are far more physically active than I, so that likely makes me even more susceptible to a corresponding fate. And finally, there has just been a general malaise that has befallen me in the past several months. I’ve always been lazy, but my energy level isn’t where it needs to be. I’m older, but I’m certainly not old. I find it more difficult to do things I once did with ease, like transferring in & out of my wheelchair or even getting dressed. More & more I look for easier, streamlined ways to do something…or even not do it at all if there is physical exertion required and it can somehow be avoided. I find myself needing not just a quick catnap but a deep snooze after eating pasta or other carbohydrate heavy foods. Never one for vanity I am increasingly uncomfortable with my heaviness. It’s time to make some changes, and Lent seems like the perfect opportunity.
What I have decided to do is give up both fast food and chocolate. That might seem superfluous to some, but I can assure you it is a large chunk of my diet. I frequent Wendy’s, Hardees, and Burger King so much I could drive to any of them in my sleep. I have Domino’s, Papa John’s, and a couple local places (Dagwood’s and Smitty’s) delivered so often their delivery guys might score spots as groomsmen in my future wedding. If I ever make it to Hershey, PA I think they may award me the key to the city. That all stops for the next 40 days beginning Ash Wednesday. Does that mean I will NEVER eat fast food or chocolate again?? Never say never. But I do plan on using the time to develop healthier eating habits and detox from all the bad stuff I know I have been putting in my body for years. I trust in God to show me the right path, and it will be up to me to follow it over the long haul. Rome was not built in a day, and I find it highly unlikely I will ever be considered buff & sexy, but I’ll settle for a little lighter, more energetic, and comfortable with my choices.
- Lenten Thoughts (featherglass.com)
- Health and fitness briefs: Healthful recipes for Lent (commercialappeal.com)
- Beginning the Lenten Journey (frozenclocks.wordpress.com)
- Local Christians feast before Lenten fast (dispatch.com)
- Lent (A Series): Origins and Meaning (ptl2010.wordpress.com)