What could you give up for 40 days?





I have a little ritual I indulge in. Every morning, as I get up at stupid-o’clock to deal with a starving child, I reach into the fridge and have a little piece of chocolate. If I’m having a bad day, feel like things are getting on top of me or just crave a little me-time, I do the same thing. But not today. Nor any day until Easter.

Lent is the 40 days leading to Easter when we dedicate ourselves to re-evaluating our connection with God. It is traditionally a time of prayer, deep thinking and fasting, and for many Christians is a chance to take stock, to see how they’ve done this year and prepare for the next. Now, if I was spending the next 40 days in silent reflection I would be happy to fast, but as a working mum with an active life and two kids to wrangle this is just not going to happen. Just as well mind you, because I think I’d go stark raving mad. No, I have normally preferred to fast in spirit only, to ‘give up’ something less tangible, like saying mean things about people or sarcasm (that one was a struggle!). Even last year I could not understand the meaning or purpose behind giving up chocolate or wine or facebook for lent. “How does this make the world a better place?” I asked a priested friend. “Why do people do this? Is it habit? Is it lip service? I DON’T GET IT!”.

Now I do. Or at least I am beginning to.

As with all faith, it is difficult to put into words something that goes so far beyond them.  But in coming to this decision, there are a few factors that come to mind.

Firstly, I am trying to create in myself a time of mindfulness. When I reach for the chocolate and remember I can’t have it it reminds me that many of the things I take for granted, small luxuries and things I consider essential, are out of reach for many of God’s children. I am reminded of all I have, and to give thanks always and everywhere.

Then I am prompted to examine what it is that is making me reach for the comfort of chocolate. Am I celebrating? Commiserating? Tired (probably)? Is there a better way, a more conscious way, of dealing with my emotions than the instant comfort that food brings? Again, I dedicate this time and space to God as I ask Her for support in my actions and thoughts.

Finally, I feel a deep visceral need to deny myself something as a sacrifice to God. This is not something I have explored before, and the words don’t sit comfortably with me now. But it feels right that for a short time, I should feel some small, trivial part of the pain that Jesus suffered on account of human actions. And I’m not talking about the physical pain of the cross here either, but that of knowing that despite his best efforts, people where (and are) still hurting each other and themselves in the name of God.

It’s early days now, and I’ve already opened the fridge twice. But I’ve also put a lot of though into my relationship with God and God’s world. I will be interested to see what happens next.

Josie is a a LGBTQI friendly feminist in her final year of training to become an ordained priest in the Anglican Church. She also has a Bachelor of Music (Performance) .

Could you give up something that you love for 40 days? What would it be? You don’t have to be Catholic to play!

What do you think?


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