Growing up, I hated the season of Lent. I despised it. I would ask myself “Why in the world do I believe in a church that makes me give up good things for God? It just feels like one huge, antiquated guilt trip.”
Among many things, I was an annoying pre-teen who thought he was smarter than he was. I had it all figured out at the wise age of twelve. One of these things was how absolutely useless it was to give something up on your own accord for the sake of religion. I thought that God just wanted me to be happy, and giving up chocolate certainly didn’t make me happy. It wasn’t until one of the strongest storms ever to hit the U.S. came that I realized just how foolish I was.
It was 2005 when Hurricane Katrina obliterated the U.S. Gulf Coast. Death toll estimates range between 1,000 and 1,900 people were killed as a result of the storm and its aftermath, which caused a total estimated damage of $125 Billion. It currently is tied for being the costliest natural disaster in all of U.S. history (according to CNN). It smashed through New Orleans, Biloxi, Gulfport, Mobile, and Pensacola on the I-10 corridor. I used to live on the coast but had moved up to Meridian, Mississippi, which was two and a half hours up from the Gulf. That didn’t stop the storm from destroying homes in Meridian and knocking out power for a grueling two weeks in my neighborhood. Since it was August, we had to contend with a violent, humid Mississippi heat, and the horse flies and mosquitos were rampant.
Then it hit me.
I missed the power being back on so much. I longed for it, I pleaded for it. I wanted it to be back on. I wanted to watch TV and play video games and text my friends. I wanted to be able to see in the shower and wanted most of all to have that sweet feeling of central air-conditioning again. It was then I realized that I had always had and enjoyed electricity but had taken it for granted. I was overwhelmed by a strange sense of…guilt. I felt guilty for all the times I just used the things that the power allowed me to do and accepted them as if they were just something that would always be there. It was like the saying that goes “You don’t know what ya got ‘til it’s gone” spiritually punched me in the face.
When Lent came around, I remembered that experience and realized that by giving something up willingly, I was actively working towards being in a state that is the opposite of being ungrateful. I realized I have the power to decide to deny my desire for something, and in that moment, be reminded of why I wanted it in the first place. It dawned on me that fasting strengthens self-discipline and allows me to actually do the things that I’ve wanted to do but have been to lazy to do (work out more often, eat healthier, go to church more often, etc.) Therefore, I’ve come to see Lent and fasting in general as opportunities to “work out” the muscle of the will. In today’s age of constant gratification and plummeting motivation, the importance of fasting has skyrocketed.
One of the most important and valuable things we have is time. A lot of people wonder what to give up for Lent. Some of the most fruitful moments I’ve had during Lent have come from giving up my time and spending it doing something else, whether that be an extra day each month volunteering in the community, going to an additional mass every week, or spending some time in adoration. This Lent, I plan to devote at least 20 minutes a day for prayerful meditation (will definitely be using Hallow for it :P). At any rate, I learned that I take most of what I have for granted on a consistent basis. Despite the great loss of life and pain from Katrina, it did teach me to be truly and continually thankful for things in life, especially the ones that I usually overlook.
What is something that you guys have given up for a time? What are you hoping to do this Lent? Leave a comment below!