Growing up Baptist, Lent was not something we did.
We didn’t dance, we hid the wine my Granny used in her fruitcakes, and we didn’t do Lent.
Don’t ask me why, I don’t know.
I remember one of my friends asking me in maybe 5th or 6th grade what I was giving up for Lent.
I gave her a long blank stare for two solid minutes – I didn’t want to look like I was so uncool I had missed out on some super trend of giving something up for this never before heard event.
“I haven’t decided yet,” I said.
She was shocked and maybe a little horrified. It was the second week and I hadn’t decided on my sacrifice.
“Um…sacrifice? What do you mean exactly?”
“You give something up for 40 days to symbolize the 40 days Jesus fasted,” she said.
“Does it have to be food?” I asked.
“Well, I guess it could be something else but usually, it’s food related. I’m giving up chocolate.”
I shook my head empathically. “I’m Baptist; we don’t give up food.”
Us Baptists were not going to give up the opportunity to fry –or subsequently eat – something for any length of time, let alone 40 days. The best way to get the preacher to stop the sermon on time or maybe a few minutes early was to know our fellowship hall tables were loaded down with potluck dishes.
I asked Granny about Lent later that week.
“We don’t do that,” was all she said.
I was surprised to find out we didn’t partake in these traditions that others did. It made me feel a little bit like the rest of the world was doing this great important thing and we were left out.
I mentioned this to Granny and she said, “We Baptist. We just don’t do Lent, and that’s that.”
Mama didn’t have a good answer either, saying, “Lent is something people follow leading up to Easter.”
“Why don’t we do it?”
Apparently, us being Baptist was our answer for everything we couldn’t come up with a better explanation for.
We may have had our Red Velvet Cake and our Hershey bars but were we missing out on being a part of something greater than us?
As I grew older, I found myself visiting other churches to find out more about some of those differences and found myself drawn to Episcopal, Presbyterian, and the Methodist faiths before settling on the latter. Upon doing so, I found myself learning about things I had missed out on – with Lent just being one.
I found out about Shrove Tuesday – a day to eat pancakes for supper. My grandfather would have loved that.
And I found out a little bit more about Lent.
The more I found out, the more confused I grew.
I don’t see how me giving up my Dove bars would mean anything spiritually speaking. It may make me drop a few pounds but I don’t think it represents anything to Jesus at all.
So when Lent rolled around and everyone started talking about what to give up, I still didn’t have an answer beyond my two minute blank stare.
“Red meat,” was one suggestion someone gave me.
I haven’t had red meat in months so that was out.
“What about bread?” was another. Nope, gave that up years ago.
My blood type is pretty much Dark Italian roast, so no. And people may get hurt.
Wine, chocolate, gum, and Keanu Reeves binge-a-thons (my child’s suggestion for me) were all offered as reasonable things to give up for Lent.
I stalled by saying I would give up something meaningful and significant.
And I hope I have.
Instead of chocolate, wine, or Keanu, I wanted to give up something that would make a difference.
Old grudges, jealousy, and bitterness seemed like better alternatives to me.
I was going to try to forgive a little quicker, and judge less — a bad trait I have that was passed down through generations.
I thought it might work and that it would mean a little more spiritually than leaving off candy for 40 days.
I told Mama my intentions. She thought they sounded good but questioned if I could stick to them.
She knew I couldn’t go without my food vices, but she wondered about these just as much.
“You really think you are going to give up grudges for Lent?”
“I have,” I told her. “And being judgmental. Maybe even sarcasm, too.”
“You think that will work?”
I honestly wasn’t sure. A few days later, I called her to give her an update.
“Mama, bad news. I don’t think I can do this,” I said.
“Why’s that?” she asked.
“Because, it’s just harder than I thought.”
“What’s making it so hard?”
I sighed. How could I explain?
“If I give up grudges and all that stuff, then some people are going to have to give up being jerks for Lent first.”
Mama was silent for a while. “I’m still Baptist, Kitten, so this is all new to me, but I don’t think that’s how this works.”
It may not be, but it would make these remaining days easier.
Probably make the rest of the year easier, too.