My friends are asking me what I've given up for Lent, and everywhere I go, people are hunched over in talks about their respective decisions as if they're at a G8 summit. Maybe I was a completely clueless Christian when I used to go to church - which is likely - but I never heard of all this Lent sacrifice in my evangelical church. I think that has to do with the separation in Christendom after the Reformation. Martin Luther hooked us up.
Even at primary school, where they dragged us to Ash Wednesday service and rubbed ashes on our foreheads in the shape of a cross, I don't recall such decisions being discussed. All Ash Wednesday service marked was a comparison of the blackened smudges and a competition to see who could keep them on our foreheads the longest:
Child 1: Ooh you got a big cross!
Child 2: Yea but my ash is falling off 'cause it's too much to stick.
Child 3: At least you got real ash and not just a dark mark.
Child 4: Fill it in with crayon!
Child 2: Crayon don't mark skin, foolbert.
And so on.
But this Lent thing seems pretty mainstream these days, like New Year's resolutions, only better, because you don't have to pretend you're actually going to keep it up for a whole year. After the forty days, it's right back to good, old-fashioned sinning and debauchery. Or in some cases, just back to Facebook.
It seems you don't have to give up the biblical sins for Lent, just something you consider a vice. While at my friend's house the other day, her daughter decided she was going to give up 'fizzy drinks'. Then she remembered that it was already past Ash Wednesday and she had had one that day, so she had to find something else to give up. Apparently chocolate was out because it too had suffered the similar fate of her forgetfulness. I suggested that she give up fighting with her brother, but she gave me a withering, 'old people are so stupid' look and said "No, that's not possible." The girl knows her limitations.
Another friend of mine is giving up the following: flour (poor flour, walking along minding its own business, trying to feed people, and then 'Whap! You're a vice now, fella. Into the pokey with you.'), junk food, drinking, cursing and sex. I pointed out the irony of an unmarried Christian giving up sex for Lent. "Why don't you give up say, fornication, you know - forever?" I asked. She laughed. She too knows her limitations.
I'm not giving anything up for Lent. I've worked hard to perfect my vices and I'm keeping them. But I'd love to hear what other people are giving up, or how you feel about the tradition in general. So leave your thoughts in comments, if you haven't given up typing for Lent.