Thanks for all the comments and suggestions about choosing a discipline for Lent! Your comments ranged from the very practical to the illuminatingly philosophical. And the clear majority of comments started with thoughts about food.
The trouble is, I’m already a very picky eater with a small appetite. My meals tend to be bread (or bagels or pasta) and seltzer with fruit on the side. My friend Tristyn knew this when she caveated her recommendation that I join her in her Orthodox fasting by saying “Given what a picky eater you are, I’m not sure how much it would either cut out or leave you!”
I liked Julie’s comment:
For Lent, I usually give up sweets and peanut butter. Now, this may seem like a diet. It is not, and here’s why: especially when I was playing lacrosse year-round, peanut butter was my staple food. I used to go through jars of it by the month in hs and college. Then it became a crutch food, and that’s what sweets are to me too. By fasting from these foods, I create a discipline for myself. It’s about the intent as much as the action. If I accidently eat something, that’s okay. But if I give in to temptation, that’s the problem. God isn’t going to punish you for breaking your Lenten promises, but it’s something we offer up for God to bring us closer to God through self-sacrifice.
I like the theme of Julie’s recommendation, but food certainly isn’t an area where I have crutches. If anything, I can be a little self-righteous about my own self control and independence from constraint, and that’s what pushed me towards my actual idea: Over the period of Lent, I’m going to make much more of an effort to eat with people.
I tend to treat meals as an unfortunate inconvenience, and, in the rush of midterms and senior essay deadlines, I’ve spent an awful lot of time in my room. Over Lent, I’m going to try be available to my friends and try to reconnect with some people who have dropped off the radar.
To make sure I don’t let this goal become about hitting a quota and satisfying myself (as I am wont to do), I’m not setting a target number of lunches or anything like that. I’m just going to make an effort to be more available and other-oriented, which will be healthier for me and hopefully pleasant for the people I know.
This will all have to go into effect after Spring Break ends in two weeks, since at home in the suburbs there’s no one I could be trying to see. But once I get back to school, I’ll try to reach out.
The other main thread of recommendations was prayer/adoration/biblical study. There were plenty of inventive suggestions, but I’m going to pass them up, since given past experience, I don’t think I’m likely to take any of them on as a joyful discipline rather than a task to check off. I’ll still be keeping up with the daily readings at The King and I, and I’ll try to go through the passages a little more slowly. I liked Michael’s suggestion, and I’ll adapt it as I see fit:
I’d suggest setting aside a certain amount of time per day (20-30 minutes) to read and ponder upon the book of scripture of your choice, considering what importance it would have to your life – what changes you would have to make – if you were to apply what it teaches.
Thanks again for all the suggestions, and I really recommend going through the comments thread yourself if you’re thinking of making a sacrifice for Lent.