Growing up in the Evangelical church, I was never really sure what Lent was about. I knew it was a time from Ash Wednesday to Easter during which Christians fasted from something. I've since learned that it 40 days when Christians partake in a fast to commemorate Jesus' 40 days of fasting in the wilderness. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, where ashes are rubbed in a cross on a person's forehead as a sign of repentance and mourning. Lent does not include Sundays, which are feast days that you break your fast on.
One of the most common misconceptions is that Lent is a time to give up a bad habit. That is not what fasting is. Fasting is a time to give up something good, as a spiritual discipline of denying yourself. All things can be good in moderation, so fasting from sugar can absolutely be a spiritual discipline for Lent. If your motivation is to lose weight, then it sounds like you've got a great health goal, but not a spiritual discipline.
Throughout high school and college I typically gave up some form of technology- social media, TV, games on my phone etc. It was always something I loved, but knew I needed to take a break from. It forced me to reorient my time and my focus, which was incredibly valuable leading up to Easter.
I've spent the past few months considering how I want to observe Lent this year. I knew I wanted to fast from something food related because I love food. I strongly believe that we are not just minds, but that our bodies are important to our spiritual lives. There is an organization on Columbia's Campus, Health Seminarians - Healthy Church, that is doing a lenten challenge and I am going to partake.
I decided to give up all animal products for the season of Lent. This will certainly be a sacrifice and discipline, as I love dairy products and eat a fair amount of meat. I don't have any allergies or food restrictions and I have to confess that it has sometimes been hard to be appropriately sensitive or understanding to their needs. I decided to go completely vegan as a way to understand and stand in solidarity with friends and future congregants with dietary requirements.
Eating a vegan diet is not just about health or understanding those with food restrictions- it's also a matter of creation care. 1.5 acres can produce 37,000 pounds of plant-based food, but only 375 pounds of meat! Those same 1.5 acres of plants produce 1/2 the amount of carbon dioxide, use 1/11th the amount of fossil fuel, 1/13th amount of water. In our increasingly populated planet, thinking about the impact our diet has on the earth is more important than ever.
Spiritual disciplines are so important for me and liturgical seasons help me shape my life around my faith. I am looking forward to this season of turning my heart and my face toward The Cross.