5 Things I Understand About Lent Now That I'm Older

by Stacy Grant

Ash Wednesday is the first of Lent, the day Christians go to get black ash crossed on their foreheads and the day non-Christians wonder why everyone’s forehead has soot on it.

It’s the day that marks the start of 40 days without something, and eight Fridays without meat.

For many people, Lent is not something they willingly want to do, but do anyway out of pure Catholic guilt. But, hey, if Jesus can go 40 days without food, you can go 40 days without Netflix... maybe.

Over the years, I have participated in “giving up” a series of different things for Lent. It all started in seventh grade when I made the daring decision that I would give up soda.

I was successful in resisting the temptation of Satan -- I mean, soda — and it led me to continue my fast for the rest of the year. I have no idea why I continued Lent for the rest of the year, but I did.

The next year I decided to give up candy; the next year cookies, then ice cream and finally chips.

By my senior year of high school, post-Lent, I found myself missing out on the joys of American culture. Sure,Lent was helping me to live a healthier lifestyle, but going on a year-long Lent wasn’t working out.

The worst part was going to celebratory events like birthdays and graduations. People would be offended I wouldn’t eat their pink cookie cakes on the principle of year-round Lent.

It was hard to do, but after all of those years of avoiding junk food, I came to realize Lent taught me a lot.

Choosing what to give up is hard.

Out of the millions of things you do every day, how can you choose one thing to give up? Do you choose something easy? Do you choose something you hate doing, but do it anyway?

I remember, as a kid, I always said I would give up brushing my teeth. Now that I'm much older, I am so glad my mother never let that happen and eternally grateful to still have all of my pearly whites.

I realized Lent couldn't mean giving up something I hated doing, it had to be something I enjoy.

But, out of all the things I enjoy, how can I pick something I love? It's like going through a breakup; one day you have something, the next you don't.

Giving something up is harder.

Those who participate in Lent know it isn't easy to live without something you enjoy. Even if it is something as specific as giving up on watching a television show, you still know "New Girl" airs on channel 32 at 8pm on Tuesdays.

The temptation is constantly there. One click of the remote could lead you to break your Lent, and into a downfall of self-disappointment.

It’s okay to fail.

Nobody is perfect; after all, we were all born with original sin. Lent taught me even those times I bent the rules, I could repent and continue Lent.

Sure, I felt guilty about labeling that chocolate M&M cookie as a brownie (something I did not give up), but I had a moment, felt bad and resolved not to do it again. I like to think of it as “the human experience.”

It makes you appreciate what you have.

The day I gave up my years of Lent was the best. I had forgotten how nice it was to go to an ice cream shop and order a big Oreo cone of death by chocolate.

Having candy and soda back in my life was also exciting, but perhaps, it was the chips I was most excited to have back in my life.

The chips were my favorite because I didn’t have to eat salsa with a spoon. Something as simple as that was exciting to me.

But, appreciating only the thing you gave up isn’t the point of Lent. Lent tries to illustrate a bigger point of appreciating everything you have, each and every day.

The best part is it could be something as simple as appreciating having hair on your head.

You don’t have to give something up.

My mom, though she was a typical strict Catholic parent, never believed in giving something up for Lent.

She believed all of the effort and time spent giving something up could be better focused on “good doing,” as she liked to put it.

Sometimes, my family went to help out at the church; other times, it was doing the smaller things, like helping to shovel my neighbor’s driveway.

Though giving something up can make you feel accomplished and aid in self-improvement, I found that doing good gave me more personal satisfaction than any other part of Lent.