Lent used to be a simple enough commitment. You gave up chocolate candy or “rolls with dinner” for 40 days and sat back and felt fairly virtuous about the whole thing.
But that was old-school thinking. This year, a mom-friend told me, in dead seriousness, that, for Lent, she is giving up hacking into her teen’s Twitter account several times a day.
Another solemnly mentioned that she was giving up reality TV for the entire Lenten season. This was truly sacrificial because of her devotion to all things Kardashian. I was humbled by someone so devout that she would let Bruce Jenner complete his odd metamorphosis into an exceedingly homely middle-aged woman without watching a minute of it.
Lent seems to have morphed into something that has almost nothing to do with penance and prayer time and a whole lot more to do with eating fried cod sandwiches “for a limited time” at fast-food places. It’s gotten depressingly specific and creative, this notion of “giving up” something for Lent.
The other day, a friend confided that she was going to give up Netflix for 40 nights.
I have to admit that one really struck me as impressive.
“What? Are you running for Pope or something?” I asked, only half kidding.
At times like this, it seems that Lent has officially jumped the shark.
We’ve always been a little conflicted about the notion of any kind of deprivation. And by conflicted, I mean really, really don’t like it.
But that’s kind of the point. You are supposed to use this time for spiritual contemplation, not kvetching about how you aren’t going to be able to see the “Survivor” finale.
I have to confess, since it’s good for the soul, right, that I have, in my exceedingly shallow past (OK, present and probably future) loudly announced that I was giving up (blah-blah) for Lent acting as though it was truly sacrificial when it was actually something I didn’t like that much in the first place.
One year, I piously announced that I would be giving up the pink marshmallow Peeps. When Duh Hubby ridiculed me about this phony Lenten sacrifice, I had to admit he had a point. If I was sincere, he pointed out, I would consider giving up TV or my nightly glass of pinot noir.
“Jesus turned water into wine,” I said waaaay too quickly.
Predictable, I know, but if it came right down to it, I’d find it easier to give up watching those nutty “real housewives” tear each other’s weaves out than forgo my nightly wine ritual.
A few years back, our preacher mentioned that we had it wrong: We shouldn’t “give up” anything for Lent. Giving up Cadbury eggs wasn’t the point, he said. Instead of GIVING UP something for Lent, why not TAKE ON something like volunteering at a homeless shelter or starting a food or clothing drive for the needy or teaching someone to read?
Makes a lot more sense, doesn’t it?