Lent is for Losing Weight
In the days leading up to Ash Wednesday, I considered what I might give up to better open my heart to God. I rolled around ideas from Lenten seasons past, and one made me smile at its memory: A few years ago, I gave up sweets for the full 40 days. I kept my fast religiously– I even refused the small mint offered at a restaurant. And I knew that the idea of the whole thing was to turn toward God hungry, but also– and mostly– I wanted to lose a little weight.
As I thought about what I might fast from this year, I noticed that a lot of people around me were planning to give up similar pleasures: desserts, caffeine, alcohol. And as so often happens when I am people-watching, I saw something about myself.
The year I gave up sweets, and perhaps every year before and since, I was willing to make a bargain. I would agree to not eat dessert, and in exchange I would get to check a Christian duty off my list and lose a few pounds. A bargain, but not a sacrifice.
And this year it struck me that a bargain is not enough. It can make me feel better; it cannot make me better. To become better requires a sacrifice.
To become better– to become more focused on and in love with God– I can’t just take a pass on something I like a lot. I have to relinquish that which charms me most. Whatever makes me gasp, Surely not this! –this is the earthly thing most fiercely competing for heaven’s place. It’s what steals my attention so that I miss God’s whispers, enflames my heart so that I don’t seek His.
And this charm, I imagine it offers such happiness. But the more I hold on to it, the less I am free to take hold of God, and I am weighed down heavy with false treasure.
So for Lent, I want to give up this sweet thing and turn to God hungry, but also– and mostly– I want to lose a little weight.