12/52: My Indolent Attempt at Lent

March 30, 2014

This year, I’m “celebrating” Lent. I thought about giving up the same thing that I did last year, but I just couldn’t relent.

Puns: 1

Truth: 0

Well, that’s not a complete fabrication. I am participating in a self-denial exercise for 40 days that corresponds with the Lenten season. However, since I wasn’t raised in this tradition, I don’t have a proper appreciation for it. In fact, even though I’ve grown up as a Christian, I wasn’t aware of the meaning of Lent until this year—when I happened to read about it in a devotional book for staff worship.

For those who don’t know, and are too lazy to read Wikipedia, Lent commemorates the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness in preparation for his ministry.

Therefore, the practice of Lent is supposed to bring the participant closer to God while freeing up time for devotion and resources for charity. The Muslims do something similar with Ramadan. These practices are both admirable, and maybe someday I will participate in such an experience. However, this is not the type of thing I’m doing this year.

I am simply doing an exercise in self-denial. My reason for doing it is because one of my colleagues is doing a legitimate observance of Lent at her church and she asked if any of the rest of us were interested. Since I greatly respect her faith, and since most of my colleagues seemed uninterested, I decided to give it a try because it seemed like the polite thing to do.

Now choosing the vice was fairly difficult. My immediate thought involved removing chips, salty snacks, or cheese from my life. This would certainly have been in the spirit of Lent, as a fast from any of these would have taken a great deal of self-control. However, I chickened out because I knew that Spring Break was coming up and I didn’t want to have to go through awkward explanations or, to be honest, miss out on some really good cheesy food. It would have been different if I were fully celebrating Lent, but my flimsy reasoning wouldn’t have held up to even the mildest of interrogations. It would have gone something like this:

Tempter (Playing the role of Satan): So why don’t you want this delicious plate of nachos?

Me: [Looking longingly at gooey processed cheese product] I’m doing this Lent thing, kind of.

Tempter: So you’re doing this for religious reasons?

Me: No, just um…cause I thought I should try something because my colleague…

Tempter: Just eat the nachos.

Me: Okay [Gobbling down nachos].

I also thought of giving up Words with Friends which I spend way too much time on. I have a whole post that will probably never happen on why it is the perfect activity for a parent of small children, but I will let that rest for now. My hesitancy in giving up this practice was based on the fact that I was in the middle of a few games and didn’t want to ignore someone for 40 days or have to explain my quasi-fast to them. Also, there were a few games where I was really close to getting some bingos.

So I settled on a fast from checking sports on the Internet. I know this sounds like the weakest fast ever, but since I don’t have a television, it basically means I am cutting myself off from a world I love very much. I also made it specific to the Internet because I didn’t want to have to run screaming from a television at family gatherings or avoid my daughter’s favorite pizzeria.

When I picked the activity I didn’t think it would be that big a deal. Football season had ended, the NBA playoffs wouldn’t start until later, and I don’t really care about baseball and hockey anyway. I figured a blackout from NFL draft and free-agency news would be a little tough, but I could weather it. However, I forgot about one thing—March Madness.

That gave me pause, but I still took the plunge and have yet to yield to temptation. I simply deleted the Score Center app from my iPod, and avoid going to my mainstays: espn.com and si.com. So far only one awkward instance has occurred. It happened when my wife’s uncle asked me if I followed basketball. He then asked me if I knew about the men’s basketball team from Dayton. My blank look caused him to ask somewhat incredulously, “You follow basketball but don’t follow the NCAA tournament?” I weakly explained the reason, but he was excited enough about his alma mater being a Cinderella team that we didn’t dwell on my strange choice.

In some ways, it’s been easier than I thought it would be. Deleting the app really helped. I even avoided watching any sports or sports coverage when I had full access to several nice large televisions over Spring Break.

On the other hand, I’ve also learned that I may have a bit of an addiction. For one thing, I have found myself logging into and out of my Yahoo email account just so I can glimpse the occasional sports headline (I never click on the articles themselves). I also find myself looking for quick hits through conversation, like talking with my wife’s uncle about the tournament or feeling like a junkie as my friend told me about the Seahawks retaining Michael Bennett. So far the most obvious manifestation of my addiction was the need to check out the bracket on the wall of the Abby’s Pizza we ate at on our drive home. I just stared at the wall like I was seeing the Mona Lisa for the first time, probably cracking a smirk when I noticed that Michigan lives. If Michigan wins, I’m pretty sure I will die a little inside while simultaneously believing that my Lent-ish-ing contributed to their victory.

I’m also pretty sure that I will be able to hold out over these three weeks. In the right circumstances, I’m pretty good at self-denial. When I eat, I almost always eat from least appealing to most appealing (in the case of a tie for the most appealing, I portion out bites until I end at approximately the same time). If someone gives me a gift, I can let it sit there for a day, a week, probably even a month without opening it. That’s why it isn’t good to give me food, tickets to a show, or a pet.

So if anyone feels like dropping me some sports-related information, I will do the polite thing and happily devour it. Or you could just tell me absurd stuff which I won’t be able to investigate any further than the Yahoo headline allows.

And if I fail, there’s always next year. Of course, that means my blog will be redolent of a Lent redo.



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