February 19, 2010 §
Inevitably during Lent I receive the following question: “A.Hab! You’re Catholic. What are you giving up for Lent? Chocolate? Facebook?” I almost always respond with a little smile and say, “I’m a grown-up.”
That three-word response always requires a little more illumination, which I will happily provide here. When I say that I am a grown-up, I mean that I am an adult member of my Catholic church. I do not participate in the beliefs of children, nor the rituals of children. Children give up chocolate for Lent so that they can suffer for 40 days and justify eating a giant chocolate rabbit on Easter morning. I used to do that, too. But when I was in high school, an adult Catholic woman redefined “fast” for me in a way that started a new tradition in me. “Fasting” is not only about giving something up for a brief period of time, only to binge on it later. What then has the faster learned? As for myself, any time I gave up an item or food, I only learned that if I just make it to Easter then I can binge on the item I fasted on, and I’d be justified in doing so. I never really got the true point of fasting during Lent.
Now that I’m a grown-up in the Catholic church, I fast from other things and attempt never to break the fast, even after Easter. This year, I’m fasting from my temper and impatience. I will fail in many ways on my attempt during these next 40 days, but my endgame is not to make it until Easter. My endgame is to make this little change in myself over Lent so that by Easter patience is second nature. Next year, I will fast from another negative behavior or trait of mine.
I hope that more people, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, will reevaluate their Lenten goals. Why precisely are we giving up chocolate for 40 days? What are we trying to learn about ourselves when we give up a material, a food, or a behavioral pattern? I have learned very little about myself when I gave up chocolate for 40 days (aside from the fact that I love chocolate). Over the past several years, my goal has changed so that I might have a chance to answer these questions.