As we head into the tradition of fasting and awareness of Lent - we get an opportunity to embrace the joy of plenty.
Depending upon the congregation and the pastor, Methodists don't have the same emphasis on denial during Lent. For some, Lent is a time of increasing study or prayer. For some, it is a time to rededicate themselves to some form of service to others. And for some, it is a chance for some sort of fasting.
Growing up, I usually gave up something for Lent. Maybe it was cookies or cake, or maybe candy. Usually it was not a very successful fast. I gave up Coke once for Lent and made it about 3 hours before I was found camped out inside the refrigerator with empty cans piled around me. Well - it wasn't that bad...but it was an overwhelming desire to consume as much Coke as possible.
Apparently my great grandmother gave up going to the movies...the only problem was - she had never been to the movies in her life!! I think my brother gave up broccoli - and he didn't eat broccoli. I'm sure my sister wanted to give up school...
So it was refreshing a few years back when a pastor encouraged us to focus on something besides self-denial during Lent. Sure, it is great if you can use the opportunity to get a bad habit on the run...but perhaps it would be a better choice to build a good habit. Something like actually doing a daily devotional or collecting coats for the Kiwanis coat drive. I like that idea. And if you ARE going to give something up - tie it to doing something good with the resource. Like, if I'm going to give up Starbucks vanilla cappucinos - save that $$ for doing something good.
And then this year I got another new insight into Lent from my current pastor: "Most people forget that the 40 days of Lent don't include the Sundays, because they're meant to be feast days! That's why we talk about the First Sunday in Lent, not of Lent. Every week we throw our fasting out the window and have a good time." This helped me understand and remember that the God that I believe in is not a stingy God. He is a God of plenty who created a world full of wonderful things to enjoy.
So - today I have indulged in my own form of feasting: a sausage and cheese McGriddle and a large Coke. And on Easter I will rejoice in the feasting again - because these are the two things I've decided to live without for 40 days (plus Sundays). And I'm working on adding a new good habit too...but for this year I hope the real reward is a greater awareness of how wonderful life is, because of what is in it!
Hamster feasting on life!!