Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, otherwise known as the 40 days leading up to Easter. Lent is traditionally a time of penitence and fasting in order to prepare ourselves for the Easter feast. We receive ashes (usually from the burnt palms from last year’s Palm Sunday) on our forehead to remind ourselves of our mortality. I won’t go into the history of Lent because you can Wikipedia that yourself, but I want to talk about what Lent means to me.
For the last several years, I have fasted from meat during Lent. This subsequently led to me reducing meat in my diet and finally going pescetarian. However, that decision made thinking about what I will do to mark Lent this year more challenging. I strongly dislike when people treat Lent as a New Year’s Resolution Take 2. They say that they are going to give up sweets or chocolate or exercise more when that is not at all what Lent is really about. You don’t even have to give UP something for Lent. More and more, there is a move towards taking things on, like joining a Bible Study or committing to saying Morning Prayer every day.
I toyed with the idea of abstaining from alcohol, though my friends pointed out that going through the last semester of divinity school while doing that might prove to be inordinately difficult. Maybe another year.
Then, last week, in my God, Economy, and Poverty class, I figured it out. I am going to fast from all non-necessary shopping. No wine, no Groupons, no clothes, no books, no music. I have books I haven’t even started reading, not to mention access to great libraries. I don’t really need new music for my long runs. I can make playlists. I have plenty of clothes and makeup and STUFF.
As a part of this, I’m going to unsubscribe from most of the e-mails I get. Every week, I get e-mails from World Market, Overstock.com, ideeli, Groupon and Groupon-type companies, and they all encourage me to spend more money on things that I don’t need. Not only will this be good for our budget, but it’s also more sustainable for the earth. As I’ve voluntarily reduced meat consumption, I would also like to voluntarily reduce my consumption of other goods as well.
While I don’t want to spend 40 days calculating the money I would have spent, I want part of my Lenten discipline to donate some of the money that I would have spent on clothes or entertainment that I don’t need. So I plan on giving some of it away to a local charity like Room in the Inn. Even if you don’t observe Lent, I invite you to join me in fasting from consumption of unnecessary items!
How do you plan on marking Lent this year? Could you not buy anything unnecessary for 40 days?