Why I give things up for Lent

I'm not Catholic, or part of a denomination that follows a liturgical calendar or celebrates Lent, but I've been making my token sacrifice during this season for about 16 years.

I don't remember exactly why I started, but I'm sure I was influenced by more exposure to Catholicism through people in college, including one Catholic best friend, and two other best friends converting with their families away from the good, old Assemblies of God.  I was raised semi-Pentecostal by my family, then attended AofG churches & school from 7th-12th grades, attending AofG church into college.  Seth & I even got married in an AofG church.

I saw later in life, while teaching at my alma mater, that though I didn't realize while it was being done, I was certainly given an anti-Catholic POV at my school.  I remember being quite worried about my friends who were going to catholic churches-- I might as well have called them papists like some Elizabethan snob.  I was afraid that they were praying to saints and relying on works to save them, that they wouldn't still pray and know God, and that Jesus would lose stature in their hearts.

The school I attended was a bit crazy.  Have you seen the movie Jesus Camp?  That isn't too terribly off the mark, though we were decidedly less militaristic.  Mix Jesus Camp  with a healthy dose of Saved and you've hit it right on the head.  Every year, we had Spiritual Emphasis Week, which meant that we had chapel every day, sometimes with a semi-special guest speaker, and all were expected to raise their hands, go to the front, or whatever.  Though I was one of the students who was actually into it, I also had no qualms at all about helping to stir up emotion so that chapel ran really long and we could miss more classes.  I was a good kid, and the ones who had attitudes and didn't raise their hands to say that they wanted to be on fire for Jesus were the bad kids.

When I asked one friend about why she liked the Catholic church better, she said that it was because there was order and reverence, and that it wasn't a circus.  I could partially see that, but I still thought she was just hard-hearted towards the moving of the Spirit.

But all of this must have been sinking in and growing in me even then, because I started giving things up for Lent my sophomore year of college.  I must have already noticed the lack of traditions that we have in Protestantism, and it made me sad.  I remember my mom chuckling at me that first year, saying that I had made my own little religion, picking and choosing from different ones.  Nowadays, that comment would get me shouted down as a tolerant, "ecumenical" (yuck!), relativistically-minded weakling who isn't really a Christian.  It's something that makes me proud, though.*  I was in college, meeting new people-including many Muslims, learning new things, and I was searching for ways to make my faith my own. 

And I still find God's truth all over the place.  I surely don't have it cornered & labeled.  I will happily pluck the truth that I see and add it to my prismatic view of God, especially when it comes from other Christian brothers and sisters.  That's a no-brainer.

Protestants got rid of the sacraments other than baptism and communion (which we don't even do that often), and severed ties with almost all of church history and tradition, as if we/they had invented Christianity out of whole cloth in the 16th century.  I understand that there were course corrections to be made, but it's a classic case of baby/bathwater.

So I do my best to sacrifice a little bit for Lent.  Out of a sense of tradition and unity, and also because I do think it draws me closer to Jesus.  I don't think my salvation depends upon it, and I don't think God cares a lot, other than the fact that we have a relationship and I made a promise.  I remember his sacrifices, and I attempt to die a little to myself more than I normally would.  When I desire the thing I gave up, I learn to live without it and I talk to him.  A little deprivation isn't going to kill most Americans. 

*"You seem to be very broad-minded in your opinions, Miss Shirley."  "That's the nicest compliment anyone's ever paid me, Mrs. Harris."