Friday, March 07, 2008

My Lenten Journey

"The purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer—through prayer, penitence, almsgiving and self-denial—for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events linked to the Passion of the Christ and culminates in Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ."
- Wikipedia

I haven't always given up something for Lent (from Ash Wednesday until Easter), but in the past I have given up McDonalds (I remember Jolie tempting me by saying, "One little meal won't hurt!"), Coke (we had a lot of Sprite cans in the recycling for a couple of months... I am a total Coke addict, I confess), and chocolate (my resolve was tested mightily when Krista did a cake-decorating demonstration at Women's Connections with chocolate cupcakes shortly after Lent began... too cruel!).

This year, we started a Beth Moore Bible study on the book of Daniel. The first half focused on living with integrity in a "Babylonian" culture - a culture that is self-centred, self-indulgent, excessive... you're getting the idea? The Babylonian "motto" can be found in Isaiah 47:8 and 10 - "I am, and there is no one besides me." In the first chapter, Daniel and his friends, devout Jews who have been taken into captivity by the conquering Babylonians (there is so much fascinating history in this book of the Bible!), refuse to defile themselves by indulging in the rich foods of the king's table that aren't "kosher." It's a DVD led Bible study, so Beth encouraged us, if we wanted to, to give up "rich meats" for the first half of the study (the second half, which we're now on, focuses on prophecy and the study of the end-times). Now, if I gave up rich meats, I really wouldn't be giving up anything at all; even if I gave up all meat, it wouldn't be much of a sacrifice. Other people gave up different things, which represented the idea of our Babylonian culture to them... like wearing jewelery, for example.

I'd had an idea rattling around in my head for awhile... I was thinking of a one week fast from this... not a 46 day fast. But God put it on my heart, so here I am 31 days later (wow, I've made it a whole month!) on my shopping fast. Yes, folks, I gave up shopping for Lent!

I thought about it a lot, because when I make a commitment, I keep it, and I wanted to make sure that I could keep this one. I really didn't want to do it... but if Jesus could die on a cross to pay the price for my sins, if He can put up with all my crap and love me anyway, then surely I can do this tiny thing in honour of Him. My ground rules are I'm not allowed to buy stuff, except for food and necessities (like shampoo, soap, medication etc. but only what I immediately need). I'm still allowed to go to the movies or rent a video... to do things, just not accumulate stuff (and I'm allowed chocolate - it falls under the food category, because giving up shopping was a big enough sacrifice for Lent!).

My biggest weaknesses are: books, card-making stuff, and presents for people, especially combining any of those things with the dollar store or a good sale - I'm cheap, haha! Oh, and I really love my DVDs too... those are the things I have a really hard time saying no to. The absolutely hardest one out of all those is not buying presents for people... picking up little things at the dollar store that I know would make someone smile, or finding a good sale and stocking up for Christmas. The second hardest would be books... I am such an addict! I own so many books that I haven't had time to read yet, I pick up more at the public and church libraries or borrow them from friends, and I always find something in the bargain books section of Chapters... I am truly an addict. I love the smell of them, the look of them, and yes, actually reading them too! It's like breathing for me... I can't imagine not having at least one book on the go!

15 1/2 more days to go! I actually dream about shopping... I'm in a thrift store or the dollar store and almost buy something and then realize, "I can't!" So far, I've managed to be faithful even in my dreams! So what has this experience given me? Well, it's been a good exercise in discipline... God knows, NOT my strong point! It's shown me how much stuff I have already... I need to use what I have or clean out, before I accumulate more. It's teaching me to think twice before I buy... a lesson that will hopefully carry over into my post-Lent life :) It's helping me to pay off my bills from Christmas, instead of spending even more. It's teaching me that too often I find my security or satisfaction in money and the things I buy, instead of simply Jesus.

In conclusion, I think it's been really good for me, but I confess, I'm really looking forward to the first big dollar store trip with my friend Mona after Easter... am I terrible?!


Pastor Derek said...

Hey Jan, I admire your resolve. Following Lent by sacrificing something you love is no easy task. Since I grew up Catholic, this was something I did every year. I would give up a favourite food, probably TV, and I can't remember what else.

Not only do we live in a culture that believes in indulging every whim and desire (and this shapes us more than we like to think or realize even as Christians sometimes), but we also live in a culture that doesn't know the meaning of sacrifice and discipline. Discipline especially is hard. I know it's one of the things that I struggle with most, whether it's discipline regarding eating habits and exercise or time spent working versus time spent in front of a screen (TV or computer). Protestants sometimes so focus on grace and freedom that we too lose our grasp of sacrifice and altogether ignore the significance of discipline.

So kudos to you for disciplining yourself. Congratulations! You're now more Catholic than me (at least in a technical sense!). I hope and pray that your experience of not shopping bears rich spiritual fruit. May you take some of the time (and money) you would have spent shopping and perhaps do something that proceeds from your renewed appreciation of Christ's own sacrifice. Let me know how you find your experience and what you have learned. I'd be glad to hear.

Heather said...

That's a neat idea Janis. I've never given anything up for Lent. I think I'd be too afraid of "caving"! I like the idea of preparing for Easter in some way though. Thanks for reminding me of that...

HomeSchooler said...

Hmm... Remember that time you gave up your watch for Lent? (And you're always accusing ME of being late!) But after, you just never bothered to put it on again? I can't remember how long you went without a watch, but it was a while! Of course, had you given up shopping at the time, it wouldn't have been much of a sacrifice, given that THERE WAS NOWHERE TO SHOP!!!! I think that that is why we actually became interested in shopping in the first place. A four-year fast from shopping can do that to a girl! (And to think I once thought that shopping - other than book stores - was BORING!)