I recently returned to the church (I dislike the term "born again") and elected to participate in the fasting aspect of Lent. Actually, I did so last year as well.
Without getting overly complicated, the idea behind Lent is to first give up something for forty-six days that will be a sacrifice and/or difficult for you; this to be in solidarity with Jesus as he wandered around 40 days fasting, and, when he was at his weakest, managed to overcome the temptations Satan was throwing at him left and right (well, three to be exact). So, yes, it is supposed to be tough.
In the years between my youth (when I was asked to give up things such as candy, watching T.V. or going to the mall) and now, I've run into adults participating in this fasting aspect of Lent who have given up everything from red meat, sweets, coffee, alcohol, cigarettes/cigars, watching T.V., buying anything not deemed necessary to getting up an hour earlier each morning, not playing video/computer/phone games, staying off Facebook -- well, the list goes on and on and is limited only by folks' weak spots (or creative manipulation).
Last year, I gave up Facebook. I took some crap for that from a few people, both on the "That's not a true sacrifice!" side and the group that proclaimed they couldn't stand not seeing my brilliant posts every day and please don't ever do that again. Well, maybe it wasn't what some would consider a true sacrifice, but, since it's how I tend to communicate with roughly 75% of the people I know plus how I entertain myself, it really was tough. But, more to the point, it played well with the other aspect of giving something up, which is, you are supposed to replace that activity (or vice) with something, well, good. For example, if one gives up an hour of sleep, they should spend that hour in prayer or reading the Bible or doing something for someone else. If someone eliminates their daily latte at Starbucks, they should give the money they would have spent to a worthy charity.
If you're interested in my last year's Lenten experience and what I learned, you can read my Blog entry by clicking HERE.
The bottom line is, I survived the no Facebook thing fairly easily and I did manage to spend a lot of that time doing much more productive things. Around December, I began thinking about giving up booze for Lent this year. Honestly, there were several reasons for this but not the least (and the most important) being, I knew it would be tough because, not only is it an embedded habit (hat tip to my Father for pointing that out) in my pretty much daily routine, it's also something I enjoy; not because I want to get pie-eyed (oh those days are long gone) but because I truly prefer alcoholic drinks taste wise to just about anything else (with coffee running a close second). Also, drinking is a very social activity; my husband and I have a cocktail just about every night around 6 (later during tax season) and discuss the events of the day and many other things. We might share a nice bottle of wine with a good meal (and, c'mon folks, who doesn't have a grand time sipping on a glass of wine while preparing dinner?) Then there's the lunches with my mom where we gab over a glass of wine. Or, beers with my Father sitting out on the lanai solving all the problems of the world. Or dinner out with friends. Etc. You get the drift, I hope; I knew that I would really be giving up something that I enjoy in many, many ways.
And, yes, maybe I enjoy it just a bit too much. There's that aspect of it as well. I recall a conversation I had with a doctor friend of mine once when he told me that, technically speaking, a person cannot be considered sober if they've had even one drink a day. He asked me then, "When was the last time you were sober?" Given those parameters, it'd been some time. Oops. I asked myself that same question last December and came up with the same "oops". So, I suppose my rationale for selecting abstinence from alcohol is spiritually, emotionally and physically oriented (as a side-benefit, I can't help losing some weight).
So, long story short, I'm on day six of the forty-six and so far it hasn't been too bad. It is because I began mentally preparing back in December? It it because I told a lot of people I planned on doing this so I wouldn't back out? It is because it's tax season and I'm fairly busy doing other things? Is it because I can see how many calories I'm saving every day by not drinking anything? It is because there is an end in sight (honestly, though, I would like to see myself come out of this with better habits going forward)? Is it because I've made this commitment to God and I don't want to fail him? Or, is it because God is helping me out by easing the temptation?
Of course, I still have 40 days to go so I'm not resting on my laurels but I'm feeling pretty good about this. In addition to the (hopeful) weight loss, here are some additional benefits I've noticed:
1. I can actually stay awake long enough to read at night and I am
2. I don't have to wash out the martini glasses every night (Mr. B
gave up his nightly martini).
3. We're saving money (and, yes, I will do a calculation at the end
of Lent to determine how much and will donate it to church or
4. I can happily and gladly serve as a D.D.
5. I feel justified in indulging in a bit of chocolate every night.
6. I'm having fun coming up with interesting non-alcoholic
7. I'm realizing I don't really need it; which is freeing. There is
certainly a big difference between having to have something
and being able to walk away from it without too much trouble.
In all honesty, I think giving up coffee may have been harder. Hmmm....maybe that's what's in store for 2014.