Warning: You’ve just entered a no-dessert zone!
“When I was a child I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” 1 Corinthians 13:11
Is it childish to give up such things as dessert during Lent? Some Christians who feel they’ve evolved in their faith might say that yes, it is. What does this sort of sacrifice really accomplish, after all?
I’d agree that if giving up desserts (as I will do again this year and as I have done for many Lents of my life) was my only Lenten sacrifice, I might not be doing all that I could to draw closer to God – and ultimately, that’s the point of Lent, is it not? That said, it is not so much the act itself but the intention behind it that counts.
I remember a specific moment in my life as a young adult when Lenten sacrifice began to look plain dumb to me. I was at a fast-food restaurant ordering a fish sandwich, and I thought, “Why? Why have I done this all my years as a Catholic? What would happen if I just ordered a cheeseburger instead?”
When I reach the end of my earthly life, I doubt very much that God will produce a tally sheet on which He kept track of my fish sandwich versus cheeseburger input. But I am most certain He will have a clear view into the depths of my heart and soul of all the times I attempted to please Him, despite my childish knowledge of all that He is and desires of me.
I believe God will recall with a smile that day in college when I questioned the fish sandwich and whether it mattered. He will know that I was searching for Him then, even if I had a long way to go toward growing more deeply in my faith. He also knows that when I choose to comply with Lenten fast obligations now, I am not doing so to earn my way into heaven but to continue reaching out toward Him. God knows that when I give up earthly pleasures like chocolate cake, I make a swift human connection with the things of this life that cloud my relationship with Him – yes, even chocolate cake can stand in my way of my loving God more completely.
We are not just spiritual creatures, after all, but earthly creatures as well, and sometimes we need earthly reminders to trigger our senses into moving into a deeper relationship with Christ. Denying myself a sweet something after a meal is sometimes the quickest way for me to be reminded that only God can satisfy my deepest hunger. Choosing to simplify meals during Lent, to serve fish sticks instead of something more decadent, gives me pause. It forces me to remember where I’m at in my spiritual journey, and what I need to do more of, and less of, to grow closer to Christ.
These seemingly immature Lenten sacrifices should not be discounted. Sure, there was a time when I questioned them. But after shirking them for a while, I came to better appreciate how the seemingly unimportant and “immature” earthly sacrifices had great power – the power to awaken my spiritual longings.
Fasting, praying, almsgiving: all of these are required for us to enter into a more deeply rewarding Lenten experience. But no sacrifice need be belittled. What might seem like a superfluous sacrifice to one person could be the very thing that changes the heart of another.