Lent is here, my friends, and I don’t know about you, but I gave a lot of thought to what I was going to sacrifice this year, as well as to doing a little something extra each day.
My first instinct was to give up exercising, and perhaps drink a little extra wine, but even I know that’s cynical. In order to give up exercise, you actually have to be exercising to begin with; and, forcing myself to drink more wine, although admittedly a huge sacrifice, could also result in my death by Easter and I just don’t think the whole Lent thing is intended to result in loss of life ... but, maybe that’s just me.
My mother and sister always give up chocolate. Always. Every year. They truly love chocolate, and it’s a real sacrifice, and I understand that, but honestly, I’m thinking the Lord could be getting a bit bored with this, you know?
“Wow, Susan’s not eating the hot fudge ball! What self-restraint!”
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“And Mom wouldn’t eat a chocolate muffin! Those are her favorites!”
My brother, Jimmy, has always been much more innovative when it comes to his Lenten resolutions. Like one year, Jimmy gave up swiping suckers from Morgan’s Drugstore, which he couldn’t tell anyone because then they’d know he’d been swiping suckers from Morgan’s Drugstore.
So, when people asked him what he was doing for Lent (this was a very big deal in our Catholic school, with enormous competition which Janice Ann VanHyde always “won”, because she lived about 15 feet from the church, so she could go every morning without breaking a sweat, AND she gave up EVERYTHING sweet, AND she resolved to get straight A’s, and GOT THEM, whatever, like I’d even WANT to be Saint Janice Ann! ... sorry, that was very ungracious and un-Lent-ish of me) Jimmy responded that it was private, but everyone thought he was lazy, or lying ... not that I ever said that.
After Lent, Jimmy told me what he’d been doing -- he knew I wasn’t going to rat him out ... usually -- and I was appropriately awed, but I told him I didn’t think giving up something that you shouldn’t be doing anyway was exactly what God had in mind. Reverting to a time-tested example, I instructed, extremely piously: What if a bank robber decided to give up robbing banks for Lent, would that be proper?
And, Jimmy replied, extremely piously, “Shut up.”
But, I think I made my point.
I remember one Lent when my Dad and I decided to get up really early every morning and go to church together before breakfast, which I thought was HUGELY grown up, since it was still very dark in the morning and very snowy and only extremely grown-up young ladies could be allowed to do such a thing.
To this day, I remember the scent of the incense as it drifted over the congregation (please, besides the two of us, the “congregation” consisted of Mrs. Trapp, the elderly Ridlebachs, a few assorted nuns, and naturally, Janice Ann VanHyde). I believed that was the actual aroma of “holiness.” Plus, it always reminded me that Mass was almost over, which meant hot cocoa and a toast-and-bacon sandwich ... not that I wasn’t praying like crazy, of course.
One year I decided not to hit a single brother or sister. It was the hardest six weeks of my life, including puberty.
Jimmy, was my grandparents’ first grandson, and while I knew they loved me as much, he still got way better presents for things like tonsillectomies. Jimmy -- a real live frog; me -- a blue gumball-machine ring. This made him perpetually hit-worthy, in my book.
My sister, Karen, was always pushing the limits, sneaking out to parties at night and stuffing pillows under her blankets while I worried myself sick that she’d be murdered ... or have a really fabulous time. (Whack.).
My sister, Susan, as I’ve indicated numerous times, was the always-annoying Miss Perfect, who told on everyone, did nothing wrong, was never punished, and was quite obviously Mom and Dad’s favorite. (The kind of sister a sister yearns to trip).
And, baby brother, John, was just aggravating, spoiled, and likely to tell on you if you tried to stuff him down the clothes chute ... even though I never did that, Mom. (Hit, hit, hit!).
But, I soldiered on that entire Lenten season, hungering for Spring, consistently pointing out to God every time I denied myself my totally deserved retribution towards one sibling or another. And, of course, my reward came bright and early on Easter morning, when I felt cleansed ... renewed ... at peace ... and righteously ate the heads off every one of their giant, chocolate bunnies.
Hey ... God understood.
Vicki Wentz is a local writer, teacher and speaker. Contact her -- and order her new children’s book -- by visiting vickiwentz.com.