Day 21: Breaking Lent

You’ve made it past the halfway mark. Today is a chance to check in on where you’ve been, where you’re going, and what lies beyond Lent.

As a kid, I always liked Lent. From Ash Wednesday to the weekly stations of the cross to the Holy Week services, Lent really connected me with the Church in a way ordinary Sundays sometimes didn’t. However, I must admit that Lent was still mostly about giving up something trivial for 40 days and eating fish on Fridays. And abstaining from Kit-Kats and the occasional hamburger actually did make me think about the more difficult sacrifice of Good Friday on a regular basis. Although I would occasionally forget and eat a Friday burger, and during the first couple of weeks I craved candy that I didn’t even eat most of the time, by about day 20 I wouldn’t really think about what I was missing – it just became a habit. Unfortunately, once Lent was over, those habits were pretty easy to break.

As an adult, I still give up things for Lent but with a little more purpose. For the last few years my family has joined the growing numbers of folks who give up meat altogether during Lent and fast on Friday, and we do it for a couple of reasons. First of all, we’re a pretty carnivorous household so this is really giving up something we love, so on a daily basis we’ll be reminded of Easter’s approach. Kind of like a string wrapped around your finger to jog your memory–only the string is bacon that you can’t eat! But we also hope that eventually our meatless meals will become a habit. It’s pretty well established that large scale livestock production is responsible for a pretty significant amount of habitat loss, agricultural run-off caused by increased grain production, and other impacts that don’t exactly fit with our creation care/conservation priorities.

So far, our Lenten practices still prove pretty easy to break once Lent is over. Cooking is my wife’s favorite pastime, and I love to spend weekends manning a barrel smoker full of ribs. By May we’ll backslide into bratwursts and fried chicken. So this year we’re trying something a little different. After we struggle through Lent we’ll make more of an effort to buy locally raised beef and poultry and cut back on the portions a bit, but not cut out meat altogether. But even if it becomes a habit, I’ll think about Easter with every small bite.

By Zeb Weese

Questions & Actions

  • What has your own history with Lent looked like? Is this your first time taking up a discipline? Is it something integral, or unfamiliar, to your faith community?
  • Here we are at Day 21. Zeb talks about habits which form through this first half. What habits have your formed which have become second nature? What are you still working at?
  • What practices that you’ve encountered or adopted this Lent do you think you could turn into habits of your life beyond the season?
  • Today, again, is an opportunity for a limited fast. Maybe you can follow Zeb’s lead and give up meat for a day (it doesn’t have to be today, and it doesn’t have to be sunup to sundown; some find it easier to fast from lunch to lunch or dinner to dinner). Could this practice be a part of your weekly Lenten rhythm through this last half? Could it extend beyond?
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