So, it’s been a while since Lent started, and I will admit, I haven’t been perfect at all.
However, Lent has brought about a deeper spirituality between me and my wife, something that I didn’t really expect, to be honest. I thought I might gain a greater cultural experience or have a couple spiritual experiences, but I was not prepared for a much more deep entrance into what religion means to us. However, the results are not surprising, and here are some reasons why I have loved Lent so far:
1. I’m choosing to participate in Lent
I’ll be the first to admit that a lot of my joy of Lent probably comes from the fact that I consciously chose to participate in Lent rather than feel like I’m expected to. However, I would counter that when it comes to religion in general, eventually you will have to choose whether you participate or not. Especially growing up and moving out of the house and getting married and other kinds of adult stuff, I’ve learned painfully that your participation on church eventually comes down to what you want, not what your parents want or what your friends want or what your wife wants. After a certain point, nobody can really force you to go to church. You either stop, you go, or you capitulate.
Now, with that said, I still enjoy Lent more most likely because I want to. But I can say that same thing about General Conference and running instances on World of Warcraft. I am choosing to participate and so I’m much more aware of things happening to me because of my decision to do so. Had I felt pressured or bullied or socialized into Lent rather than choosing to do so, no doubt my reaction would be quite different. But this has only emphasized that lesson I have learned and now try to implement in my life – if you don’t choose to do something but merely capitulate, you live a fairly miserable existence.
2. I think about God a lot more
One of the reasons the rabbis give for the strict kosher code of Jewish tradition is that as you move through life, every decision brings you back to God. As you make a conscious effort to prepare a kosher meal, you think constantly of why you’re doing this – because you want to revere what God asks you to do. Lent has done that for us. We haven’t been perfect – we’ve definitely eaten out more than several times during Lent, but each time I feel that pang of guilt. And even more than the times we’ve eaten out we’ve decided not to because, well, it’s Lent. And that always feels good.
Sure, God didn’t specifically ask us to give up eating out. After all, eating out is pretty benign and for Dantzel and I who are amateur, budding foodies, eating out is a great way for us to spend a date night together. But giving that up for just a small period of time for God feels good. And we find that we think about Him a lot more than usual.
3. I feel connected to others because I participate in Lent
My wife had an interesting experience during Lent – while working, she found out one of her co-workers is a practicing Catholic. When she mentioned she had given up eating out for Lent, they immediately bonded. Even though he later found out my wife was actually Mormon and not Catholic, they still had a very amicable and beneficial friendship and they exchanged thoughts on belief and religion, which my wife enjoyed greatly.
I’m not a very connected type of person. I have a Twitter account and some 100 odd “friends” or so on Facebook but my face-to-face interactions are limited to a select few. This often leads to times of crisis as I grapple with existential angst and loneliness. I’ve noticed that these past few weeks, however, I haven’t felt that angst as often. There’s a lot of factors working here – my new church ward is welcoming, and Washington people seem more friendly to people like me than Utah people. However, something definitely changed somewhere in my mentality – I feel a strong solidarity and affinity to Catholics. Not to say I’m going to join anytime soon, but I definitely feel a connection – even grumbling a little whenever Martin Luther comes up.
One thing is certain, while I’ve been practicing Lent, I’ve felt more connected knowing millions around the world are doing the same thing – contemplating doing what you’re fasting from, stopping, thinking, rationalizing, then shaking your head and pushing that thought out of your mind. There’s a solidarity that comes from that knowledge.