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Mar 5, 2012

Lent and other dryer problems

I'm a Methodist, right?

Not that that's a question, but I'm trying to break away from any decent kind of writing style and descend completely into my new stereotype as a friendly, but none-too-bright girl that seems to go along with "receptionist." (Not my coworkers, who know better, but just about anyone who asks me what I do for a living follows it up with "you know, folks like you tend to run the place, oh hohoho," while mentally dialing down my mental acuity.)

Anyway, pulling away from my misplaced defensiveness, I'm a Methodist. Among a variety of other things, this means I have the option of practicing Lent, a church "season" that takes place for the 40 days before Easter (not counting Sundays... so it's actually like 45 days). The idea is that you can choose to give up something for the duration, a kind of self-reminder of Jesus giving up his life combined with the 40 days he spent in the desert resisting temptation by the devil. 

Most of the time, people give up stuff like pizza or soda, and spend the whole time lamenting the loss of their pizza and deliciously fizzy drinks.
The churches tend to really emphasize the verses about true worship versus worshiping in order to get attention,  namely Matthew 6:16 - 
 16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 
ESV version pulled from 

Pretty much all of chapter six of the book of Matthew returns to the whole "Do this in secret so the Father who sees in secret will reward you" spiel. Depending on the translation, it's got this gorgeous kind of rhythm to it that I really love: the refrain phrase of "Father who sees in secret" really gets to me.

I tend to take the 40 days' commitment to get healthier. Unlike a new year's resolution, there's a set end-date and a real commitment to the process due to the religious tie-in. One year I gave up using elevators (which I bitterly hated myself for when I had my Shakespeare class on the top floor of the Humanities building - that book is a heifer), I usually have some form of eating healthier, etc. I've thought about giving up gluten or bread (body of Christ) for the duration before - but I really don't think I would hold to it at all.

I've stopped telling people what I've given up for Lent, sometimes because it's too complicated to explain, but mainly because it's none of anyone else's business. I only whip out the Lent excuse - or the "Lexcuse" - when invited to do something I'd normally be a part of (like boozy movie night) that I'm avoiding in order to keep my Lenten calm (can't do a boozy movie if you're not drinking alcohol).

But I've noticed a disturbing trend - people who don't get it. I'm not talking about people who give up something bizarre or something that doesn't really make them have to sacrifice (like when I was 10 and gave up my least favorite restaurant so I couldn't eat there for religious reasons if my parents took us there); I'm referring to people who comment on others' decisions for Lent.

There's apparently a woman somewhere who has chosen to give up using a fork for Lent. She's also (apparently) overweight.

I don't think that gives anyone the right to make fun of her choice. So she didn't choose to lose 40 pounds in 40 days, so what? Her choice, her commitment with God. Personally I think it's a cool idea - you'll definitely be noticing something different every meal, and you won't necessarily be distracted by the immediacy of a craving or hunger.

It bothered me that some people who I saw as pretty strong in their faith were making fun of her choice. It generally bothers me when people make fun of something personal. Don't get me wrong - I can be freaking ruthless when making fun of someone - in fact, it's occasionally my favorite past-time. I try and keep away from people's beliefs, though. I'm fully aware that my judgmental attitudes detract from my walk with God.

I guess what it comes down to is if you comment or ridicule in secret, then the Father who sees in secret will know... and kick your ass.

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