Today is Ash Wednesday. I didn’t grow up observing this day or the season of Lent. However, I’m very familiar with Mardi Gras, which was yesterday, because I grew up in New Orleans. I marched in parades in middle school, and our family always went to the family-friendly parades in our area.
But growing up, we didn’t observe Lent because it was something the Catholic community did. Though to be quite honest, fasting wasn’t a discipline that was really talked about in our church circles. Every now and then, someone would be fasting and praying about some situation, but it wasn’t really a dedicated practice. So, an entire section of the year dedicated to fasting was entirely foreign to me.
And, even among my friends that did fast for Lent, it seemed like it was more of a sanctioned diet than it was a religious event. The most common thing that people fasted was chocolate or sweets.
Then, as an adult, I continued to have a very awkward relationship with this particular time of the year. On a hilarious note, I didn’t realize that the fast wasn’t done on the Sundays of Lent until I had already participated for a few years. I couldn’t figure out how people were saying it was reflecting 40 days of Jesus fasting in the wilderness when it was not 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. Thankfully, I googled it at some point.
And I’ve also learned, as an adult, that it is more than just taking something away from your life but replacing it with God. It is also a season of generosity and looking to the welfare of others. Things that I would not have recognized as a kid, mostly because a lot of this is done privately.
But I still struggle with if and how I want to observe Lent. Part of me feels like an impostor trying to do something I don’t really understand. Part of me is curious and open to using this time to connect with God. So, here is where this journey has taken me today.
Last year, Caroline Williams Yoga on YouTube did a weekly session for the Lent season, using a book called Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter. And of course, being me, I made a mental note to get this book. So, now it is a year later, and I have the book, ready to read these chapters over the course of the next 40 days (or so). I want to use it to direct my thoughts each day, giving me focus during this practice.
I also decided not to fast. I know that is the traditional thing to do, but I really struggled with what I should fast, which really showed me that I wasn’t ready to take that step. I want to know more about this tradition before continuing to observe it in its most traditional sense.
Because ultimately, as with anything I do, my main goal is to have a closer relationship with God and be more like Jesus. And hopefully, I will continue doing that on this journey, one foot in front of the other.