I’m giving up alcohol for Lent. I know; sounds like the title of a horror movie, doesn’t it? Especially coming from me, since as most of you know, I love alcohol. Five PM beer and Cheez-its has been a part of my habitual routine since I was old enough to apply for academic scholarships. I’ve never gone a full month without drinking, so what gives? And why Lent? I’m not even Catholic!
Lent is the approximately forty day period between Ash Wednesday and Easter. Lent is honored every year in New Orleans, via Mardi Gras season. The intention of Mardi Gras: get as drunk and fat as possible before Ash Wednesday, because then begins the Lenten fast. The idea for Catholics (and many modern Christians) is that Lent is a time of preparation through prayer, repentance, tithing, and self-denial.
During Lent, many of the faithful commit to fasting or giving up certain types of luxuries as a form of penitence in memory of the forty days of fasting Jesus undertook in the New Testament Gospels. In the old days, Lent was serious business and mostly related to food. In some places, all animal products were strictly forbidden. In other places, people wouldn’t eat for days.
We do these crazy things because Easter (contrary to what the media would have you believe) is our big holiday, NOT Christmas. Easter marks the resurrection of Christ—you know, the thing the entire Christian faith is based on. Kind of a big deal. In order to prepare for such a big deal, people like to cleanse themselves and deny themselves something, as God denied Himself His only son.
Our modern version of Lent is somewhat watered down. People nowadays give up things like soda, video games, TV, or sweets (as in the case of my mother and husband this year). Rarely do people get rid of all animal products, and no one I know is planning to carry a cross up Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives.
Usually, I do nothing for Lent. I make excuses like, “It’s a Catholic thing,” when in fact, giving something up for Lent is really just a way to remove the idols from our lives—idols that keep us from God.
I have several idols: books, sleep, reduced fat Cheez-its … but alcohol is one of my favorites. There’s something about Happy Hour that makes me happy. Something about good wine and good bourbon that makes me laugh a little louder and feel a little better. After a long day, it’s nice to know a cold beer is waiting for me—somewhere. Which is why I’m giving up alcohol for Lent.
See, I’m not the cleanest Christian. I drink. I love to cuss, and violent horror movies are my favorites. I don’t go to church enough. I don’t “serve” like I should. I hate volunteering, and the thought of going on a mission trip to a third world country gives me the creeps. However, like all of us, I am a work in progress, and despite my badness, God still loves me. I probably give him a good laugh on my really bad days. We have a tight relationship, filled with laughter, praises, and the occasional righteous shouting match. I feel it is time for me to give something back, and what better than one of my most infamous idols: alcohol?
This could be a rough month with school, work, a new novel, and now, a two-month-old puppy. There will be no breaks for a drink at five. There will be no “drinking lunches.” I will have to find other ways to unwind, like riding my super cool beach cruiser, going to the dog park, and well, reading a TON of books just to keep my hands away from the liquor cabinet at 5:30 PM.
This is my first Lenten fast. I’m prepared to grow closer to God. I’m prepared to give a little back, since He did give me life, after all. He gave me a wonderful family, a wonderful husband, and the perfect job. I owe Him just a little bit, so here you go, Lord. Take my idol. Let the Lenten fast begin!
And before you even ask, no, I’m not pregnant.