Today marks the beginning of Holy Week for Christians. As the Lenten season draws to a close I am reflecting on my forty plus days of going without. This year I decided to forgo meat. A popular choice but not an easy one for me as my diet consists of 98% chicken. Perhaps this explains why my feathers are easily ruffled.
As it turned out, going meatless was relatively stress free and I wondered – how does modern day abstinence compare to times of old? It used to be that giving up meat, alcohol, sweets, or…ahem…other pleasures, was considered sacrifice enough.
Times have changed. According to a recent survey conducted by the UK Church Times, traditional Lenten abstinence is highest among students and people in their early 20s and declines steadily with age. Surprised? I was. Even more surprising is what young people choose to give up – swearing, online shopping, and social networking. Lenten abstinence takes on a whole new meaning when one announces “I’ve given up Facebook for Lent”.
My first thought – no big deal. Online shopping I could do without – God knows my credit cards could use the rest – but swearing? That might pose a few difficulties for me. Remember, I live with Cirque de Westcott. Repeat – CIRQUE DE WESTCOTT. Expletives are seldom far from my thoughts as I come to grips with my family’s latest exploits.
As for giving up social networking, consider the difficulty in trying to prise a laptop or smart phone away from a teenager. In my house that involves the use of Extreme Force and more often than not I find myself wishing I had a taser. I vividly recall a Christmas vacation spent in a lovely cottage in England without telephone or internet. The children were rabid by the end of the first day.
Has our need for constant access and accessibility become the New Vice? How often do we encounter someone without a cell phone these days? It is practically unheard of, and on the rare occasion when it does occur, we regard the individual with shock and awe, unable to comprehend how they get through the day. Forty days without whatsapp or Twitter might be a stretch after all.
Whenever I choose to ignore my telephone for whatever reason, I am rewarded by increasingly hysterical voicemail messages from family and friends: “I called, texted, whatsapped, bbmed, tweeted, and Facebook messaged you! Why didn’t you answer me?” Being “off the grid” has temporary advantages but could I do it for an extended period of time? I’m not so sure. For starters I’d never remember anyone’s birthday without Facebook. Isn’t that the purpose of Facebook? Birthday reminders and opportunities to gawp at friends’ photos?
Lent is not an endurance test. It is a chance to examine our lives and look for the temptations that we could resist. Or so I thought. According to some persons polled by the Church Times, the meaning of Lent is:
- A time for giving things up
- A Christian festival
- A diet before important holidays
- A type of tropical fish
- How the EU is keeping Greece afloat (These are real answers).
Maybe the younger generation is on to something. Traditional sensory pleasures have been replaced by the allure of the internet. In giving up the internet, social networking or even just the use of a mobile phone, this represents a real sacrifice for some. The point of the sacrifice – giving up something we really want or need – is to draw us closer to God. Perhaps next year I’ll give up Twitter; half-killing myself in the process and definitely drawing me closer to my maker.
What’s your guilty pleasure? What are you prepared to give up?
Tell me your thoughts.
March 25th, 2013 at 11:27 pm
I was so busy this Lenten season that I did not give up anything at all, but next year I will give up chocolate… and probably die in the process! The first Lent I ever observed was a few years ago; I gave up red kidney beans, which featured mightily in my then-diet.
Although I slipped up about three times (including one time when I clean forgot about Lent), the experience was a very positive one. I learned to vary my diet with white kidney beans…lol… and also to find other sources of vegetarian protein. The effect on my diet was excellent, as it became healthier and more interesting due to becoming more diverse. As a result, I grew closer to God because I appreciated the range of God-given foods more.
Your children are part of the dot-com generation; to cut them off from all telecommunication is to inflict a tropical downpour on their parade. They are not addicted to telecommunication; it is the natural medium in which they exist. For today’s young people to voluntarily give up the internet… hmm, that is like being one of the first fishes to learn to walk on land and also to breathe oxygen.
You and I, on the other hand, belong to Generation X, that grew up without all of these electronic refinements… so as we all gradually became addicted to them, we realised this fact and we occasionally attempt to withdraw.
You have been very brave to give up meat for Lent. I cannot imagine anyone in my family who would be so brave… although my sister and I have introduced the concept of meat-free dinners once in awhile.
I could give up swearing, don’t really shop online to begin with (I’m lying; today I signed up to receive Chatelaine magazine online, but this is a first for me). Social networking…. hmm, how about I limit it?
Chocolate makes an excellent featured withdrawal item for next year’s Lent, as word on the internet is that several chocolate manufacturers… or is it cocoa growers?… are due to leave the chocolate business next year. Which will result in a decrease in the global supply of chocolate.
Hmm…you know what? I am not going to give up chocolate next year after all. In fact, I intend to consume rather a lot of chocolate before it becomes scarce and expensive.
Maybe I will give up wearing jeans, or something equally excruciating that will put me in mind of the Lord. As for Twitter, the reason I don’t have an account in the first place is that I KNOW I will become addicted in a matter of days.
March 26th, 2013 at 8:21 am
As usual you made me smile Jacquie !
Well I gave up coffee……….yes i did !!!! Must admit there was a cave in on one day but still going strong. As for social media, especially facebook………ummm no. My husband asked me to try but almost immediately i replied that I would definitely break that one. :-p
March 26th, 2013 at 3:45 pm
My dear friend Denise Coleman had this to say about giving something up for Lent:
I don’t really view “giving up something for Lent” as necessarily sacrificial. My interpretation, which is far less entertaining that the EU loans to Greece and pre-holiday dieting, is to give up something negative and vice-like for the purpose of growing personally and spiritually.
Giving up meat or wine would actually be easy for me since I can do diet and drinking austerity better than anyone else not in a war zone. So I went with giving up petty personal resentment. I decided to kill all the moments when I dwell on someone or something that upset me, or fueled my sense of outrage or irritation or righteous indignation. It was not easy and was therefore instructive as I was laboring under the delusion I am a fabulously positive person. I have discovered that I actually have some work to do on letting go and moving on.
So as Lent draws to a close, I will say that this is one exercise that I’ll be carrying on for the rest of the year.