Hot air balloon rides. That was my family’s traditional joking deflection of the ubiquitous annual question: “What are you giving up for Lent this year?” We thought we were so clever.
But aside from my family’s weird sense of humour, Lent is serious. I mean, it starts with people putting ashes on their faces while someone chants, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” and then it ends with Jesus being tortured to death and then coming back to life.
Yikes. I mean, I know we don’t have the monopoly on intense religious traditions, but dang, we Christians sure know how to party/freak out six-year olds.
Perhaps Lent isn’t the most familiar thing to people who grew up outside of Christian churches, but it was always one of my favorite times of the year. Sure, the Easter egg hunts and lacy dresses gave me warm fuzzy feelings when I was young — but as I aged, I felt like Lent understood me. (And yes, that is possibly the most emo thing I have ever said.)
As a young woman who struggled with everything from my faith to my weight, Lent was always a huge relief: the one time everyone else around me in church gave any indication that they, too, felt like it was hard to believe, hard to sacrifice their human impulses, hard to control their bodies and their hearts (and, perhaps, hard even to want to).
During Lent, I wasn’t some kind of freak for arguing constantly in Sunday school or refusing to eat my mum’s food because she had cooked it in butter. It was okay to skip dinner or burst into tears during worship service because I just did not feel the same/”right” feelings about God (as described in the songs), did not feel the right things in my body, did not feel right at all. (Watch: Jessica Rowe gives advice on self acceptance, post continues after video.)
Because, in Lent, you’re not supposed to feel good. Lent was when everyone admitted that you were supposed to suffer, and my constant inner struggles with church and my body and my brain could come out and breathe in the heavy, ashy air.